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State House committee hears testimony – often heated and emotional – on wind, solar permitting bills

A wind farm in central Michigan. The newest wind farm is in Hillsdale County.
Lester Graham
Michigan Radio
A wind farm in central Michigan. The newest wind farm is in Hillsdale County.

A state House committee heard testimony Wednesday on permitting bills for large-scale (over 100 MW) wind and solar projects.

The bills would allow the Michigan Public Service Commission to issue the permits instead of local governments.

Dan Scripps is head of the commission. He said Michigan's future electricity supply, as well as its reliability and cost, requires the change, as the state transitions to cleaner forms of energy.

Scripps said about 45% of Michigan townships have some form of restriction on wind projects. He said local opposition recently blocked DTE Energy from building nine out of ten proposed wind farms in the utility's territory.

"Think about that," he said. "Local opposition blocking projects that are a key part of maintaining reliability and forcing all of us to pay more for our electricity."

The committee heard testimony opposing the bills from Judy Allen of the Michigan Townships Association, who said local townships should retain local control of land use.

Carol Sanbourne, a resident of rural Lebanon Township, north of Lansing, also testified against the bills.

"We do not want solar, we do not want wind," she said. "And even though we're against all of this 'green' energy, it's being shoved down our throats even though we want nothing to do with it. All for the greater good."

Many environmental groups in the state support the bills.

DTE Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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