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Petition drive aims to repeal state control over large wind, solar farms

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(The Center Square) – A voter-led petition seeks to repeal a Michigan law that allowed the state to seize local control of large-scale wind and solar projects.

The Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Townships Association say Public Act 233 of 2023 strips local siting authority in 1,240 townships and gives it to the Michigan Public Service Commission – three people appointed by the governor.

Citizens for Local Choice must collect at least 356,958 valid signatures before May 29 to place the proposal on the November ballot.

With voter approval on the November ballot, the initiative would restore the zoning authority of clean energy to Michigan communities.

“The Board’s support of this initiative efforts aligns with the Association’s unwavering commitment to local control and the ability of communities and residents to have the final say over local decisions—especially those that have far-reaching, long-lasting and dramatic effects in a community,” MTA President Pauline Bennett said in a statement. “Local officials and their residents simply should not—and cannot—be silenced over local issues impacting them, their community, their quality of life—and their future.”

An MTA-commissioned poll found more than 87% of Michiganders agree permitting utility-scale renewable energy should remain at the local level.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the bills last fall as part of her goal to use 100% clean energy by 2040, up from 12% in 2022 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“This means all the energy we produce will be from wind, solar, or other commonsense sources,” Whitmer said. “It means clean air for our kids to breathe and safe water for them to drink.”

Boosting solar and wind energy to reach the 2040 energy goal might require about 209,000 additional acres of land for wind and solar generation to achieve 60% of energy from renewable sources, according to MPSC Chairman Dan Scripps.

Much of that would likely be built in rural Michigan.

If enacted, this proposal would allow local governments to continue determining their standards regarding setback distance, structure height, and the amount of light and sound emitted by renewable energy facilities.

It would also allow them to exercise final authority over the construction of energy facilities within their jurisdictions.

“The issue at hand is not about whether or not you’re in favor of large-scale wind and solar projects,” MFB President Carl Bednarski said in a statement.

“It’s about whether you support local control — and ultimately respect the local decision-making process. We urge our members to make their voices heard and help us in getting this initiative on the ballot to put the power back in the hands of locally elected officials.”

The law follows locals opposing an electric vehicle plant near Green Township that some Michigan lawmakers say is a “national security” concern. Some locals oppose the $715 million subsidy while others say the plant could harm the environment, including a nearby horse farm.

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