A poll conducted on behalf of the Michigan Townships Association earlier this month found 87% of respondents disagree with pending legislation that would remove siting authority for solar and wind facilities from local authorities. Instead, House Bills 5120-5123 would allow the unelected officials at the Michigan Public Service Commission to approve such sites.

The poll also found 71% of respondents oppose a state takeover of siting and permitting for renewable facilities. The poll identified opponents of the bills as 85% of Democrats polled, 91% of Republicans polled, and 84% of Independents polled.

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HB 5120, 5121, 5122, and 5123 were introduced in the Michigan House two weeks ago.

By region, 92% of Upper Peninsula residents polled were against the bills. Other opponents of the bills include 89% of residents of West Michigan and Thumb/Tri-cities, 84% of Northern Lower Michigan residents, 80% of mid-Michigan residents, 70% of the City of Detroit residents, 91.5% of Wayne County residents, 90.1% of Oakland County residents, and 79.2% of Macomb County residents.

The MTA testified in opposition to the bill package last week in front of the House of Representatives Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee. The bills passed out of the committee on a Democratic party-line vote. The bill will likely be voted on by the full House this week, before being sent to the Democrat-majority Michigan Senate.

“Our opposition—and that of many similar voices—is not directed at renewable energy,” 2023 MTA President Pauline Bennett, Addison Township (Oakland Co.) clerk, said in a statement. “But we wholly oppose this legislation, which is written for developers, and with total disregard for local authority, local units of governments, and residents across the state. The quick action through committee, without substantial debate – despite testimony from local leaders, residents, and others about the negative consequences of the legislation – signals a complete lack of concern and respect for the wants and needs of Michiganders, and for decisions made at the local level.”

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Among the MTA’s other objections to the bill package is the MPSC’s lack of land-use experience, as well as the lack of limitations on how much overall land the bills would allow for permitting. The MTA cites one township that was presented with a request for 50% of its land for a renewable solar energy farm.

Other groups publicly registering disagreement with the proposed legislation include the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Michigan Agri-Business Association, the Michigan Association of Planning, and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“While Michigan Farm Bureau recognizes the critical role renewable energy plays in our state’s transition to a sustainable energy future, we cannot overlook the profound impact this will have on rural areas, particularly our farmland,” according to a statement by MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch. “Unfortunately, the bills currently under consideration by the committee threatens to strip away this essential (local) authority, putting the long-term planning and wellbeing of many agricultural communities across the state in jeopardy.”

The bill package is sponsored by Reps. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, Philip Skaggs, D-East Grand Rapids, and Ranjeev Puri, D-Canton. The bills were drafted in response to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “What’s Next Address” last August, and a follow-up email in September in which she called for “Streamlining permitting of clean energy projects through the MPSC to move faster, create more jobs, and get shovels into the ground,” as one way Michigan can become a “clean energy leader.”