News Story

Whitmer climate plan views locals as barrier to progress

In 2024, appointees of the governor will have final say over large-scale wind and solar projects, not local officials

Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy has published the 2023 annual report for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Healthy Climate Plan. The document depicts local communities as a barrier to the governor’s goals, it says a streamlined process giving ultimate say to a three-member board, appointed by the governor, is the solution.

Read it for yourself: MI Healthy Climate Plan 2023 Annual Report

“Address barriers to siting renewable energy” is how the MI Healthy Climate Plan describes it. What that means is that local elected officials are often the barrier. Sometimes they reject large-scale wind and solar projects.

“Streamlines the siting process for large-scale wind, solar, and storage projects” is how it describes the solution, which was enacted into law as Public Act 233 of 2023.

The law gives three appointees of the governor, members of the Michigan Public Service Commission, statewide zoning authority to approve large-scale solar and wind projects. If a local community says no but the commission says yes, the project will move forward.

Without the ability to override the popular will, Whitmer’s climate agenda could not work, supporters admit.

Dan Scripps, chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission, told lawmakers that about 17,000 acres in Michigan are now covered by wind and solar. But to reach Whitmer’s climate goals, 209,000 acres would need to be covered by wind and solar.

The only way to get there, Scripps told lawmakers, is to empower the commission, giving it the ultimate say in the matter.

In response to the law, a group named Citizens for Local Control is seeking a place on the 2024 ballot. It is pushing for a ballot initiative to restore the old status quo, wherein local communities make zoning decisions.

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.