News Story

Petition to keep local control over large wind, solar facilities fails to reach 2024 ballot

Advocates will try again in 2026

A ballot initiative to allow local control over large wind and solar projects will not obtain enough signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

Citizens for Local Choice missed its target to collect at least 356,958 valid signatures before May 29.

The petition drive started after Michigan Democrats, who hold a political trifecta, enacted bills in 2023 giving the state control over large-scale wind and solar projects. The law gives the Michigan Public Service Commission, a body of three members appointed by the governor, power to certify solar energy facilities and energy storage facilities between 50 and 100 megawatts.

Citizens for Local Choice said in a statement that the “ballot campaign has engaged thousands of volunteers across the state and has issued tens of thousands of petitions for signatures in an effort to restore local control of large-scale wind and solar operations.”

“The campaign is strong and robust and while we have not reached the required signature threshold to make the 2024 ballot, we will continue our ambitious effort to leverage our legal 180-day window and work to secure a placement on the 2026 ballot.”

The MPSC’s authority supersedes local zoning regulations under the 2023 law, meaning the state can advance a renewable energy project even if the local government opposes it.

The Michigan Farm Bureau applauded the coalition’s goal.

“Michigan Farm Bureau continues to support restoring local decision-making for large-scale wind and solar operations,” Matt Kapp, Michigan Farm Bureau government relations specialist, said in a statement. “Renewable projects have a major impact on rural communities, and our members believe that local leaders who live in those areas are better suited to make those decisions than unelected government officials.”

Michigan aims to meet all its energy needs with renewable energy by 2050. As of 2022, 12% of Michigan’s electricity generation flowed from renewable sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state plans to increase its use of wind and solar energy, whose installations consume a significant amount of land and will likely be located in rural Michigan.

Michiganders can start petitions to change laws or amend the state constitution. They must gain enough valid signatures to place a question on the ballot or have a majority of lawmakers advance the idea through bills.

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council approved the 2023 law. “[T]hese critical siting reforms will help avoid higher energy costs for the average Michigan household while creating jobs and making our economy more competitive,” it posted on social media.

But Neil Sheridan, executive director of the Michigan Township Association, said local authorities and residents should have the final say in whether to allow large-scale renewable energy projects.

“The Citizens for Local Choice ballot initiative aligns with MTA’s long-standing, firmly held belief in the essential need and value of local authority, and in residents and local officials having the final say in issues that impact their community and quality of life,” Sheridan said in a statement. “The Association supports local siting authority over utility-scale renewable energy facilities by Michigan’s local governments. MTA remains committed to fending off any effort that seeks to strip away local control from our communities.”

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.