News Story

Lansing takes step toward control of wind, solar zoning

Appointees of the governor, not local officials, would have the final say on large wind and solar projects in Michigan

The Michigan House Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee voted Oct. 18 on a package of bills that would remove local control over industrial-scale wind and solar developments in the state. The legislation will give zoning control to the Michigan Public Service Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor. The bills were hurried through the committee in spite of bipartisan opposition.

House bills 5120-5123 were introduced in the energy committee just a week prior, on Oct. 10. A coalition of local interest groups submitted a statement of opposition against the legislation, as previously reported by Michigan Capitol Confidential.

Rep. Joseph Aragona, R-Clinton Township, stated during the Oct. 18 committee meeting that he was not told the bills would be voted on until an hour before the meeting started.

Lenawee County Commissioner Kevon Martis has worked on industrial siting for over 14 years. Martis testified that he had never seen land use regulations introduced and completed in a week. It usually takes years, even on a local level, he said.

Martis told committee members that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends a five-mile setback from Great Lakes shorelines for wind turbines, as a way to protect migratory birds. This was not addressed in the bills.

Self-identified Democrats testified in opposition to the Democratic-sponsored bills. They cited the effects of turbines on farmland, livestock and nearby residents.

Other witnesses criticized the idea of moving control over siting decisions to state officials. “Zoning is a vested interest of local government and should remain as such,” Madeline Fata said on behalf of the Michigan Association of Counties.

There are 20 counties where zoning and renewable energy sources interact, she said. Each community has its own issues, and they cannot be satisfied by uniform standards, she added.

The package of bills passed and will head to the House floor for a vote. The meeting was streamed on Michigan House TV and can be watched in its entirety here.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.