LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source)Citizens for Local Choice recently announced the support of two organizations regarding their statewide ballot committee that seeks to repeal Part 8 of the Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act as added by Public Act 233 of 2023. Those organizations are the Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Townships Association.

Public Act 233 puts zoning for wind and solar project under control of three unelected Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) members who are appointed by the government instead of localities as it was before the Act passed. The Act gave the MPSC the authority to approve or deny a project starting in November of this year.

Why was control of local zoning decisions changed?

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Public Act 233 was done as part of a push to fast-track the governor’s clean energy agenda by stopping the 1800 different jurisdictions in the state from deciding the fate of the Michigan Democrats’ green energy plans for the state to get 100% of their energy from “clean” sources by 2040.

Citizens for Local Choice is opposing the Act. The organization is a broad coalition of bipartisan voters across the state who are working together as one group to restore local control of zoning regulations. Their supporters include Democrats, Republicans, Independents, farmers, veterans and regular citizens across the state.

Signatures are being collected for ballot initiative to be voted on in November.

Having successfully navigated the necessary procedures and secured state approval for their petition language, Citizens for Local Choice is now in the process of gathering signatures. They must gather 356,958 valid signatures from registered voters by May 29th. If they achieve this threshold, their ballot initiative will be featured in the November election.

“Having the final approved petition accepted by the state allows our team to launch the ground game to collect signatures and restore the voices of voters across Michigan,” says Roger Johnson, member of the Citizens for Local Choice Ballot Committee in a press release. He added, “We have a strong network of county captains, volunteers, and activists who are ready to hit the ground running to secure the required amount of signatures needed to bring this issue to the voters.”

If the group fails to get enough valid signatures to get their petition on the ballot or if the voters reject their petition, the Act will go into effect in November of 2024, allowing corporations to supersede local control across our state for utility-scale wind and solar projects.

What does the language say?

The wording on the petition is as follows: “Initiation of legislation to: amend the clean and renewable energy and energy waste reduction act by repealing statewide requirements for the construction and development of certain wind and solar energy facilities, including: assessment of environmental, natural resources, and farmland impact; wages and benefits requirements for workers; setback

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distance; size and height of structures; and amount of light and sound emitted. If enacted, this proposal would allow local units of government to determine their own standards for such facilities.”

Rich Studley, member of the Citizens for Local Choice Ballot Question Committee, says, “Sadly, democracy is now under attack in Lansing by know-it-all politicians and their political appointees who want to ignore and override important local decisions on the location of utility scale wind and solar energy. It’s time for everyday Michiganders to stand up and take action to protect local voices by supporting the Citizens for Local Choice petition drive.”

Groups throw their support behind ballot initiative.

The two large groups who have recently lent their support to the ballot initiate are the Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan Townships Association.

In a press release from Citizens for Local Choice, they say, “Michigan Farm Bureau’s member- developed and approved policy has long supported the township government system and the idea that local elected officials are best positioned to evaluate renewable energy project locations and consider community variables in ways that state level authorities cannot.”

Andrew Vermeesch, Legislative Counsel, Michigan Farm Bureau adds, “Similar to the diversity of Michigan agriculture, each Michigan community is equally diverse, and this law is a one-size-fits-all approach that will have consequences for years to come.”

Zoning decisions best made at the local level.

The other organization who recently came out in support of the ballot initiative is the Michigan Township Association (MTA).

MTA President Pauline Bennett, Addison Township (Oakland Co.) clerk says, “The Board’s support of this initiative’s efforts aligns with the Association’s unwavering commitment to local control and the ability of communities and residents to have the final say over local decisions – especially those that have far-reaching, long-lasting and dramatic effects in a community.”

She adds, “Local officials and their residents simply should not – and cannot – be silenced over local issues impacting them, their community, their quality of life – and their future.”

Voters in a survey support local control over authorization for energy projects.

In poll commissioned by the MTA, results show that over 87% of Michigan residents express agreement that authorization for utility-scale renewable energy should be retained locally. The findings showed strong bipartisan support, with 85% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans, and 84% of Independents endorsing local control.

“The issue of local control is widely supported because citizens value democracy. When local government has responsibility for wind and solar citing decisions that affect Michigan communities, fairness and transparency can be achieved,” said Studley. “MTA’s support of this effort is a critical step in listening to the will of the people, restoring local authority, and ensuring local governments have the right & responsibility to make local land use decisions for their community.”