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Whitmer signs bills boosting solar power, allowing more stringent state regulation

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(The Center Square) – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed six bills into law to boost solar power and allow promulgation of state environmental rules more stringent than the federal standard.

Whitmer signed House Bills 4317 and 4318, and Senate Bills 302 and 303, 288, and 14, which she says advance her climate goals of reaching 2 million electric vehicles driving on Michigan roads by 2030.

“With these bills, we will help more communities unleash innovative clean energy resources, provide vital energy assistance to help families stay warm in winter, and create good-paying, high-skilled jobs right here in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement.

SBs 302 and 303 will expand property eligibility for Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy financing. C-PACE allows local governments to work with building owners to promote energy efficiency and protect against contaminants, floods, or severe weather.

SB 288 will remove the sunset on the Michigan Energy Assistance Program. MEAP helps households at or below 150% of the federal poverty level with energy assistance for electricity, natural gas, and heating bills. The bill would have no fiscal impact on state or local government compared with current law.

SB 14 will allow state environmental restrictions to be more stringent than federal rules.

House Republican Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Township, objected.

“As families and job providers flee Michigan, piling confusing and useless regulatory burdens on small businesses and citizens will make it even harder for our state to compete,” Hall said in a statement. “We should be focused on helping people thrive while protecting the health and safety of Michiganders, but left-wing environmentalists want to cripple businesses with over-the-top regulations that are completely unnecessary and burdensome.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration said, in 2021, renewables provided about 11% of Michigan’s electricity net generation in 2021, and wind energy accounted for three-fifths of that power.

HBs 4317 and 4318 will allow local governments and commercial solar energy developments to opt into payments instead of taxes, which lawmakers say will cut red tape and costly litigation.

The solar payment-in-lieu-of-taxes legislation aims to allow Michigan communities to partner on projects with energy businesses, providing more tax revenue certainty that supports local services – such as police, fire, and libraries.

“We live in a state with a few big cities and many, many local communities,” bill sponsor Rep. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, said in a statement. “Too often those smaller towns and suburbs get overlooked. I am very pleased to sponsor this legislation and make sure they get the same opportunities as anyone else.”

Whitmer’s 2024 budget funds $125 million for electric school buses, $30 million to incentivize renewable energy projects, and $25 million for home repairs and clean energy upgrades.

Rep. Cynthia Neeley, D-Flint, said Michigan is becoming a “powerhouse” for technology advancement.

“This legislation will help solar districts by easing portions of their operational tax burden, while also ensuring they are still paying a reasonable share of their dues,” Neeley said in a statement. ”

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