LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — A bill in Lansing could change how renewable energy plants statewide are allowed to be built and run.
House Bill 5120 was introduced this week to make changes to the state’s Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act. The legislation, sponsored by Democrats and introduced by Rep. Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), would give the state the authority to certify wind, solar and energy storage plants.
“In order for us to actually meet our energy future goals, then we have to deploy out renewables as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Aiyash said.
Specifically, the authority would be given to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), which would require the developer to provide a site plan and adequate notice to the affected jurisdictions and follow state regulations.
“The reality is with nearly 1,800 cities, townships and villages, it’s not likely that every single community has a process in place,” Aiyash explained. “We want to make sure that there isn’t one in place, the state can then help streamline the process.”
Rep. Christine Morse, D-Texas Township, said Michigan’s carbon neutrality goal means the state should be involved.
“Having previously served on the Energy Committee, I understand that planning for a reliable energy future for Michigan means the state needs to have a role,” said Morse. “We cannot achieve the goals of carbon neutrality without adequate investments in green energy solutions.”
But at least one section of the bill is getting major pushback from groups like the Michigan Townships Association.
“We support a well-planned transition to that clean energy, but we believe that local stakeholders must have a part in that siting process,” said Judy Allen, who serves as their director of government relations.
Section 231 of the bill says certifications from the MPSC would then override any local ordinance prohibiting or limiting energy facilities. Allen believes that would take away optionality from local governments, who would have a voice, but no veto ability on final decisions.
“You have local units who have put zoning in place … for residential development, manufacturing, industrial, commercial, agricultural,” she explained. “Anything they have in place, this would negate.”
In Decatur Township, 80% of residents voted down a referendum to validate a zoning permit application for the Southwest Michigan Solar Project. If the bill were to pass as-is, the developers could bypass the referendum’s results and move the project forward with a state certification.
Jason West, who serves on the township’s planning commission, argued the state should let the local communities decide.
“They’re going to come down and say, ‘We don’t care … We’re going to tell you we’re going to put this here anyway.’ And that’s a big problem,” said West. “Projects like this — They’re local projects. They needed to be decided on the local level. We don’t need people on the other side of the state in or in Lansing or wherever you live in Michigan — they can’t decide what’s best for our community. For us, the people of Decatur (Township) have decided what’s best for our community.”
If this House Bill 5120 were to ultimately pass, it does not go into effect unless lawmakers pass House Bill 5121, which would change the state’s zoning enabling law to allow it.