Poll: Residents believe local governments should have say in renewable energy facilities in their community
Newly introduced bill would shift all siting and permitting from local governments to state
Most Michigan residents believe that the state’s townships, cities and villages should have the final say on siting and permitting for large renewable energy facilities in their borders—counter to legislation introduced today to eliminate all local authority over where and how many such facilities can locate in a community.
According to recent poll numbers, the vast majority of Michiganders—more than 87%—agree that permitting for utility-scale renewable energy should remain at the local level. The Michigan Townships Association recently commissioned Market Resource Group, LLC to conduct a public opinion poll on the issue. The poll, conducted Oct. 2-8 with more than 600 likely voters, also showed that some 71% do not support a state takeover of siting and permitting for these facilities.
Despite these strong-held beliefs, newly introduced legislation—currently before the House Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee—does just the opposite. The legislation would eliminate all local authority and approval over the location and permitting of utility scale wind, solar and large-scale battery facilities, and shift it to the state level. Under the bill, the Michigan Public Service Commission—a rate-setting, regulatory agency with no experience in local planning and zoning issues or responsibility to Michigan residents and communities—would have permitting authority over these facilities that have real, decades-long impacts on their host communities unless the developer chooses to apply locally.
A group of organizations representing local governments and the agriculture industry have united in opposition to the legislation and any efforts to eliminate local control and create one-size-fits-all, top-down regulations from the state.
“No one knows their community better than residents and the local officials they elected to represent and serve them,” said MTA Executive Director Neil Sheridan. “This legislation is an authoritarian attempt to force large renewable-energy facilities into Michigan’s rural areas—completely disregarding and negating adopted local zoning ordinances, including the ability for voter referendums on the issue. Yes, renewable energy facilities can be contentious in some communities. But the answer is not—and is never—to silence the voices of the impacted residents and communities.”
“SEMCOG is an unwavering advocate in support of responsible energy policies that provide environmental benefits through renewable, clean, and sustainable energy options,” said Amy O’Leary, Executive Director of SEMCOG, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. “Unfortunately, the inclusion of provisions in this legislation that would be detrimental to the role of local elected leaders in regulating land use within their local community, leaves us unable to support this proposal.”
Local communities are not all identical, and a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer.
“Michigan Farm Bureau member-developed policy opposes any action that would eliminate local control of siting for commercial renewable energy projects,” said Andrew Vermeesch, Legislative Counsel, Government Relations Department, with the Michigan Farm Bureau. “These decisions should reside at the community level to ensure that the unique needs and preference of each locality are properly considered. This approach not only safeguards our treasured agricultural heritage but also fosters sustainable energy development in a manner that caters to the specific requirements of each community. Farm Bureau firmly believes that those who know their communities best are the locals themselves, and local officials are the most qualified to assess suitable project locations and consider other critical variables, expertise that state level authorities such as the Michigan Public Service Commission cannot replicate.”
Andrea Brown, AICP, executive director of the Michigan Association of Planning, noted “Wind and solar installations will be with us for the long haul. We must plan carefully for this transformative change, which includes the ability of local government leaders to consider the impact, and to what degree they wish to participate in increasing clean energy options. A more thoughtful approach must be advanced, even if it takes a bit more time.”