Snitchler: A good soldier on Twitter & the PUCO

Good Soldier - On Twitter, On PUCO: Todd Snitchler, PUCO Chairman
Good Soldier – On Twitter, On PUCO: Todd Snitchler, PUCO Chairman

This post started out as an idea of lifting up Ohio’s PUCO Chairman Todd Snitchler as just one more political hack who finds it easier to take the lazy intellectual road and play megaphone for the right wing noise machine. I had read this story in the Columbus Dispatch, and Snitchler raised my ire.

From the Dispatch:

The former lawmaker from Uniontown, Ohio, frequently shares material critical of solar, wind and “green” energy, even re-tweeting a story called “Elites of West have cranked up myth of Global Warming” from Pravda, a Communist Party-connected newspaper in Russia, calling it “interesting.”

Among more than 1,000 tweets from the past year, Snitchler did not once share anything positive about renewable energy. Instead, he tweeted about how “clean-energy aid racks up losses” and “the Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows”; shared the conservative website Drudge Report’s “complete list of green energy failures” and conservative political commentator Laura Ingraham’s “windbag & greeniac update”; and re-tweeted “electric cars pose environmental threat,” “after Sandy no one lined up for wind turbines” and that the “  ‘green’ religion is taking over from Christian religion.”

I went to Twitter expecting to find that Snitchler believes the earth is only 6,000 years old, women have secret powers to shut down ovulation during legitimate rapes and that there are FEMA camps being built to intern honest, God-fearing Americans who refuse to accept Sharia Law.

Didn’t find any of it. I found the Twitter feed of one more incurious American politician getting most of his information from ideological sources. I now know that Snitchler married a woman who can correctly identify a horse collar tackle on Monday Night Football and I found that I agree with one of Snitchler’s relatives – Tom Cruise is no Jack Reacher.

I also found that Ohio’s PUCO chairman is one of the biggest boosters of all that is natural gas on Twitter. There are so many tweets and retweets of information from America’s Natural Gas Alliance that on some days @snitch92 might be confused for the ANGA’s feed. When he’s not parroting the ANGA line, Snitchler is sharing all that is good about natural gas from other sources.

The ANGA was created to give natural gas producers and industry allies a lobbying arm in Washington and to run gauzy PR about the virtues of nat gas. Part of the PR campaign is to cast natural gas as “clean energy.” I actually applaud them for that – nat gas is a much cleaner energy than its similarly carbon-based kin. You can count me on the team that would like to see some public investment to move the demand up for nat gas because I see it as a bridge to whatever our next energy future may bring.

On the other hand, I don’t want to cede our state’s health, water and air quality to Chesapeake Energy or the Ohio Oil & Gas Association. There are unknowns about fracking and perhaps more importantly the growing number of frack waste injection wells around the state. The other thing I don’t want to do is throw the renewable energy and conservation opportunities in the state out the door to keep Big Oil and Gas happy.

And there is the rub. While I commend the Dispatch for “outing” Snitchler’s anti-intellectual views on Twitter, the bigger story for me is that we have a PUCO chairman who appears to be working for only one industry. We pointed out last week the absolute partisan crock that was the PUCO’s recent decision in the AEP-Turning Point Solar case. As chairman, Snitchler could have probably marshalled the forces on the commission needed to find in favor of AEP and the 600 jobs, and the solar panel factory in Napolean – and the largest solar array east of the Mississippi south of Zanesville.

But that’s not the Ohio GOP way. There’s only one “clean” energy source – natural gas – and to hell with renewable energy. The Kasich Administration has rolled out the red carpet for Big Oil & Gas to exploit the Utica Shale play with a fig’s leaf worth of environmental and landowner protections. Gov. John Kasich would say, “But hey, I’m willing to tax these guys!” I would respond, that our severance taxes would still be among the lowest in the country and the governor conveniently – and this sounds like a back room deal – leaves the highly prized and very valuable natural gas liquids (NGLs) completely untaxed.

As the chairman of the PUCO which describes itself as, “… created to assure Ohioans adequate, safe, and reliable public utility services at a fair price,” being an apologist for Big Gas hinders his ability to be an objective public servant. When he and others torpedoed Turning Point Solar, a cynic might say they were removing competition for a natural gas market they wish to boost. They were also completely ignoring the bipartisan 2008 Ohio energy bill that mandated renewable energy standards for Ohio’s electricity producers. They could have figured that law into their decision-making:

What the commission overlooked is that the project isn’t just about AEP. The renewable standards set by the legislature require that half of the alternative power come from inside the state. So the project serves the interests of Ohio as a whole. As it is, the commission itself has held in the past that such charges would be allowed if the market failed to produce the needed generation.

Look around: Nothing in the works fills the void like the Turning Point project. This was the clear thinking provided by the PUCO staff in its analysis supporting the AEP request.

When the legislature moved to a deregulated electricity market, it didn’t do so no holds barred. It left open a regulatory structure when the market ill serves customers. In that spirit, it allowed room for meeting the larger needs of the state. Ohio has committed to alternative energy. This solar project is part of meeting the goal. (Akron Beacon Journal)

Snitchler appears to be falling right into line with the Kasich/Oil and Gas industry line. It’s a shame, because they refer to oil and gas patches as “plays” for a reason. In ten, fifteen or 20 years Ohio will be played out. Natural gas will not be $3 forever. Snitchler inhabits an office that could be doing good for all of Ohio and the future by giving renewables their due. But, he’s a good soldier. Once a state rep, now a PUCO commissioner. Perhaps tomorrow he’ll be working for Chesapeake or the ANGA making the big bucks.