Who should have authority in renewable energy siting?
A package of bills introduced in Lansing this week by Democrats would shift approval of renewable energy projects from local authorities to the Michigan Public Service Commission.
Michigan Farm Bureau’s Matt Kapp tells Brownfield their members are strong advocates for renewable energy, but siting needs to remain local.
“Township boards are elected and by keeping zoning decisions local, if that community likes or doesn’t like their decision making, they can reelect township officials,” he says. “Or they can vote them out of office through elections. We can’t do that with the Public Service Commission because it’s not an elected body.”
During her testimony, Monroe County farmer Clara Ostrander described challenges her family has faced trying to start a solar project on their farm.
“We need a responsible neutral party like the Michigan Public Service Commission to review these projects based on facts, not fear or falsehoods,” she says. “I thank you for giving this important issue the attention it deserves and hope you vote to protect the property rights of Michigan farm families.”
Ed Rivet with the Michigan Conservative Energy Forum says the legislation needs to better include public interest, but their organization supports the change in authority to protect farmers.
“Their rights are not being respected entirely and, in some cases, they are literally being threatened simply because they have been interested in putting solar on their farmland,” he shares. “That’s just not right, to threaten people.”
Rivet says the current situation at the local level is not sustainable and needs to change. In the last five years, he says at least 100 wind and solar projects have stopped because of local zoning battles.
In addition to the Michigan Farm Bureau, the legislation, HB 5120-5123, is also opposed by the Michigan Agri-Business Association. Michigan Township Association, and Michigan Association of Planning.