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Municipal groups urge local control as Lansing eyes statewide wind, solar permitting

Michigan Public Service Commission, not local communities, would be the permitting authority for wind, solar projects

A battle is brewing between local governments and state officials over who will control zoning decisions that affect industrial wind and solar projects.

The issue erupted Oct. 11 with new legislation introduced in the House Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee to allow state control over local zoning decisions about solar and wind projects. Several local government groups oppose the package. House bills 5120 and 5121 must both pass for either to be enacted into law; the same is true of House bills 5122 and 5123.

Read them for yourself:

House Bill 5120 and House Bill 5121

House Bill 5122 and House Bill 5123

If the bills pass, the Michigan Public Service Commission, and not local officials, will have authority over permits for wind and solar projects. MPSC chair Dan Scripps testified at the House energy committee meeting in favor of the package.

Gongwer reports that a coalition of local governments has formed to oppose the legislation. It is made up of the Michigan Township Association, the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Association of Planning and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

Gongwer did not mention the Michigan Municipal League, which is active in local government affairs. Records show the league submitted a card to the committee for its Oct. 11 meeting, opposing the legislation.

The league has taken more aggressive efforts in the previous debates between state and local officials. In 2021, it opposed House Bill 4722, which would have prevented local governments from banning short-term rental housing.

It created an online campaign with a form letter for people to sign and gave people leads on how to contact their legislators to vote no on the bill. The organization’s website has a dedicated space for its efforts, which includes the banner KEEP LOCAL DECISIONS LOCAL. It asks people to “Act Now!”

This time around, other groups are the vocal champions of local control.

“[T]he vast majority of Michiganders—more than 87%—agree that permitting for utility-scale renewable energy should remain at the local level,” the Michigan Township Association wrote in a press release.

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.