Statewide initiative aimed at new State law

 

TRI-CITY AREA — A growing army of people are getting involved and doing their part in trying to stop recently passed legislation regarding wind and solar energy.

In short, the new laws essentially take the power away from local entities for governing wind and solar projects and instead, the state will be involved with location and size of projects, along with other factors.

Opponents of a new law that gives the state authority to override local rejections of large wind and solar projects have announced a ballot initiative to challenge the law.

A group called Citizens for Local Choice has said it is finalizing the language of a proposed ballot petition, aiming to bring the issue before voters in November.

Solar and wind ordinances have been popular topics at many city, village and township meetings. Now locals are sparring with the State over new legislation.

The group is pushing to repeal Public Act 233, which passed narrowly along party lines in November as Democrats sought a way around the bitter local fights that have stalled wind and solar developments in rural communities across the state.

To get an initiative on the November ballot, they must collect 356,958 valid signatures by May 29.

Public Act 233 passed as part of a broader suite of energy bills to steer the state more quickly toward renewable energy. It creates a statewide permitting system for large-scale wind, solar and energy storage projects, which previously were vetted by local governments.

Instead, the three members of Michigan Public Service Commission, who are appointed by the governor, will have authority to approve or deny projects.

Proponents of the new law, including Democratic lawmakers, environmental and labor groups, called it a necessary step to speed up renewable energy projects.

Proposed ballot language would need approval from the Board of State Canvassers before Citizens for Local Choice could start gathering signatures.

A spokesperson said the group plans to submit language within the coming days, forcing the Board of State Canvassers to then review the language within 30 days.

If they succeeded at signature-gathering, the petition would then go to the Legislature, which would have 40 days to adopt the proposal, approve a competing proposal and send both to the November ballot, or take no action, which would send the initiative to the ballot.

Lansing politicians have said zoning is, and should remain, a local issue, stating local governments know their own communities better than any unelected Lansing bureaucrats.

According to a statement, Citizens for Local Choice was formed by a bipartisan group of individuals to restore voters’ rights in land use decisions for industrial wind and solar operations. Several GOP lawmakers are supporting the effort.

In late November, Michigan’s’ Governor signed HB 1520 which will allow energy providers to submit a permitting application to the Michigan Public Service Commission if the community impacted fails to approve or deny their application in a timely manner, if the local zoning process is stricter than the standards outlined in the bill, or if a project meets zoning standards outlined in the bill but the application is denied.

House Bill 5120 and its companion, House Bill 5121, each passed along party lines, and received strong opposition from Republicans and citizens who argue the bill has stripped authority away from local governments.

The ballot effort would repeal these new laws, restoring the ability of localities to manage proposals to construct energy facilities and allowing local ordinances to regulate setback distance, structure height, shadow flicker, and the amount of light and sound emitted by energy facilities.

The committee has submitted an initiative petition to the Bureau of Elections, requesting approval of the summary of purpose and pre-approval as to form.

If approved by the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, the committee will have 180 days to collect 356,958 valid signatures, however those signatures must be submitted by May 29 in order to appear on the November 2024 ballot. Otherwise, the initiative could be pushed back to November 2026.