Controversial energy bills are hitting the floor of the house

LANSING, MI — The Clean Energy and Jobs Act is a package of bills that will streamline renewable energy projects as they move forward. Wednesday, members of the Energy, Communications and Technology Committee approved the bills. During the hearing, several people close to the case spoke against the bills.

Norman Stephens is an Elmer resident who is against the expansion of renewable energy projects without local control. He became an advocate on the issue in 2017 after NextEra Energy sued the town where he lives, over local wind ordinances. The case took more than a year to settle and NextEra lost in federal court.

“When they sued us, I realized that, and I thought I wanted to help people across the state not go through what we had to go through there,” Stevens said.

Many Michiganders who oppose the bills believe that if the Clean Energy and Jobs Act becomes law, rural Michigan will lose its agricultural lifestyle.

“Rural Michigan has made it loud and clear that they don’t want this in their community,” Stevens said.

Others support renewable energy, but would like to see legislation that puts a limit on the amount of land that can be used for a solar and wind project. Debra Hopkinson, of White River Township, spoke to the committee about how a solar developer uses 50% of its agricultural area for solar panels.

“Our town is a glaring example of irresponsible siting for renewables. The state needs 2% of the state’s (agricultural) land we learned last week at the hearing. Our ordinance offered 12.5% ​​of our (agricultural) land. We want that,” Hopkinson said. “We are integrating solar energy into our communities, but we cannot allow it to completely control us.”

I contacted Dame Helena Scott, Head of Energy, Communications and Technology, about the committee moving the bills forward and she told us:

“Passing the Clean Energy and Jobs bills out of committee today is a big part of what Michigan’s clean energy future needs. The Clean Energy and Jobs Act is a path forward to help the environment and improve the health and well-being of all Michiganders,” Scott said.

The committee voted on the draft law with a majority of 9 members, 7 opposed, and one member approved.

“I was not surprised by the voting results here,” Stevens said.

The bundle of bills will now reach the floor of the house.

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