The Gongwer Blog

Group Launches Effort To Reverse Energy Siting Law

By Nick Smith
Staff Writer
Posted: January 8, 2024 12:27 PM

A group seeking to undo recently passed laws moving the siting of large-scale wind and solar energy projects to the Public Service Commission formally announced its efforts last week, saying control for such decisions must be returned to locals.

After filing paperwork with the Bureau of Elections last month to create a new ballot committee, Citizens for Local Choice is beginning its effort to roll back the law. It submitted language to the Board of State Canvassers, which has a meeting scheduled on January 19.

The group is seeking to remove the siting authority for wind and solar energy projects as well as energy storage facilities granted under HB 5120, now PA 233 of 2023, and move siting back to local governments.

This would allow local ordinances governing setbacks, structure height, shadow flicker, and the amount of light and sound emitted by energy facilities to be enacted and enforced again. Local governments would also restore their ability to manage and approve proposed facilities within their jurisdiction.

"We refuse to sit on the sidelines as local control gets stripped from our communities," Norm Stephens, a Citizens for Local Choice committee member, said in a statement. "We are committed to this effort and believe we have a real chance to rightfully restore control back into the locals' hands."

If approved, the group would need to submit at least 356,958 valid voter signatures by May 29 to appear on the November 2024 ballot.

"This will no doubt be a tough battle, but it is a battle that thousands of Michigan voters and I are ready to take on," Stephens said.

The energy siting bills passed along party lines in November after a sharply partisan debate. They were signed weeks later.

Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), sponsor of what is now PA 233, said Thursday the landowners he has spoken to have thanked him and the Legislature for providing options for them to use their land how they want. Aiyash said residents are seeking more options for affordable renewable energy.

"Our legislation is extremely popular," Aiyash said.

The representative was not concerned about the proposal hurting the push for an increased state renewable energy standard.

As to any organized opposition to the group's ballot initiative, Aiyash said he hadn't heard anything.

"This is still new," he said.

Aiyash said the law explicitly prohibits eminent domain from being exercised in siting renewable energy projects and contains provisions for local involvement.

Michigan Townships Association Executive Director Neil Sheridan in a statement said the association has not been involved with the independent ballot initiative committee pushing the proposed measure, but MTA's members are supportive of repealing the law and returning siting to local governments.

"From its introduction, MTA and its members fought against the rushed legislative attack on local control and the ability of locally elected officials and residents to have the final say on where large-scale renewable energy facilities can locate in their borders," Sheridan said. "This is not – and has never been – about clean energy, but rather the essential need for local authority over local decisions that have far-reaching, long-lasting, and dramatic impacts in a community. We understand and echo the deeply felt concerns and continuing uncertainty about the effects of the new renewable energy law."

Tim Minotas with the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter said the new law "sets clear protections, local input, and community benefits" and that the siting law changes are needed to help the state meet the renewable energy standard it also passed last fall.

"What this law does is bring renewable projects in line with how we regulate and site other energy infrastructure. This ballot initiative campaign is a damaging and dangerous waste of time and resources," Minotas said. "It's too early to tell what kind of opposition they will receive, but I am sure that there will be. Michiganders want energy independence, and this is what this new law starts to achieve."

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