A Free-Market Energy Blog

Grassroots Opposition to Wind/Solar Projects: Martis Testimony in Michigan

By Robert Bradley Jr. -- December 20, 2023

Myth One: There is a fossil fuel funded effort to stop clean energy”. Fact: there IS a lot of fossil fuel money in the renewable energy space. But 100% of it goes to the PROPONENTS of renewable energy like the Sierra Club and Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. And the vast majority of renewable energy developers in Michigan are fossil fuel entities themselves.

How should government-enabled projects that deprecate the environment be handled by local opponents? This is a debate with two sides. Michael Giberson argues that private property rights trumps the taxpayer in such cases. I argue that government intervention to block government intervention regarding projects on private land is justified. (Debate here.)

Ideally, this controversy would be bypassed by a separation of government and energy. And it should be. But there is real damage to private property around the wind/solar sites, and the victims were there first. Below, intrepid solar/wind critic Kevon Martis makes his case before the Michigan legislature regarding House Bill 5120 et al. in regard to local zoning of wind, solar, and other energy resources.

Although rejected in favor of statewide permitting, Martis’s argument for local control and against wind and solar projects per se apply to all jurisdictions beset by governmental projects working against local aesthetics and rural values.

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October 11, 2023

Chairman Scott, I appreciate this chance to testify in opposition to any legislation that in any way interferes with county and township ability to regulate utility scale renewable energy installations.

I come before you first as a Lenawee County Commissioner. Yesterday, our commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing all interference with local units of government’s authority to regulate wind and solar installations as well as any attempts to interfere with our rights to regulate aggregate extraction, short term rentals and CO2 injection. I am proud to bring that message to you today on their behalf.

Next I speak to you as the Deerfield Township zoning administrator. Both our planning commission and our township board unanimously adopted a similar resolution and we stand strongly on the side of local control.

But now I wish to speak on the behalf of Our Home Our Voice, a bipartisan statewide coalition with active supporters in at least 45 counties and growing.

For the past 14 years, I have been deeply involved in the always-contentious issue of siting wind and solar developments in rural areas. I have volunteered my time to help both local governmental entities and citizens alike work through the various issues surrounding these installations and over time, I have travelled to 10 states across the west and Midwest and to that end, I believe I share a perspective that few have.

For the remainder of my time, I would like to address some of the false narratives put forth by the renewable energy industry being used to attack local regulations and then address the bills directly.

Myths

  1. “There is a fossil fuel funded effort to stop clean energy”. Fact: there IS a lot of fossil fuel money in the renewable energy space. But 100% of it goes to the PROPONENTS of renewable energy like the Sierra Club and Michigan Conservative Energy Forum. And the vast majority of renewable energy developers in Michigan are fossil fuel entities themselves. I receive no such funding and none has ever been offered to me or anyone else expressing concerns over irresponsible renewable energy development. Ever.
  2. “Right wing Republicans are the only opponents to RE development”: Fact: opposition to irresponsible wind and solar development in our townships is strongly bipartisan and often led by family farmers, democrats and republicans alike.
  3. “Renewable energy developers are here to protect the environment”. Fact: renewable energy developers are corporations who have only a single allegiance and that is to their corporate bottom line. They regularly run roughshod over legitimate environmental impacts. They ignore guidance from USFWS and regularly attempt to site large scale projects on environmentally sensitive places like the Michigamme Highlands and the Garden Peninsula.
  4. “Ohio and Wisconsin have state level siting and it has produced a much smoother path for renewable energy development” Fact: Ohio and Wisconsin’s approach to wind and solar development has produced FAR less development than Michigan with local control. Michigan has nearly twice as much installed wind capacity as Wisconsin and Ohio COMBINED! And Michigan has roughly identical installed solar capacity as those two states even with local control. The truth is that local control is not nearly the impediment to RE development as the proponents of this legislation claim.
  5. “State level siting of renewable energy will secure a sure path forward for development” Fact: Ohio did exactly this in 2007. They established state setback requirements for wind turbines that were similar to those in these bills. By moving these regulations to the state, it only took a single line in a budget bill to increase those setbacks to a distance the developers found unpalatable and that is exactly what happened. That budget bill killed wind energy statewide. Live by state siting, die by state siting.
  6. “State level siting will end local skirmishes over wind and solar development”. Fact: these bills simply move the fight out of the township hall and to your offices in Lansing. No longer will state legislators be able to tell their constituents “The township or county board has the authority to regulate these installations. Go see them.” These people will be here, and they will never go away. In fact, Ohio legislators got so tired of the wind and solar debate coming to Columbus, they passed a law allowing county commissions to simply ban wind and/or solar in all or part of their counties. If nothing else, this brought peace to Columbus.
  7. “Solar development saves family farms”. Fact: much of the opposition to massive scale solar development IS LED BY family farmers. Most farmers rent a large portion of their ground from landlords and they cannot compete with the rent prices offered by solar companies and they are being driven off farms they may have rented for decades. Further, massive corporations like CERES corporation from Indiana is buying huge quantities of farm ground including the ground around my home. They deliberately target ground that has a high likelihood of hosting solar development a business strategy. CERES is not a family farm, they are another faceless corporation who no doubt is licking their chops at the thought of state level siting. These bills are a massive payoff to these farmland robber barons who consistently outbid small family farmers wishing to acquire more land for the next generation to farm.

Finally, a word about the noise limits and setbacks in these bills for wind and solar.

I have been involved in renewable energy zoning issues for 14 years. I have seen zoning regulations for both wind and solar presented by dozens of developers and they all look exactly like the regulations proposed in these bills. This is an industry developed bill.

The 55 decibel noise limit is not supported by any scientific literature. In 2018, the WHO published noise guidelines for wind development and they recommend 45 decibels daytime, 40 in the evening and 35 night. Ontario uses a 40 decibel noise limit. Australia EPA uses 35 decibels at rural dwellings. But this bill uses 55 decibels. This is unconscionable and defies sound acoustic science.

This bill permits a 500’ wind turbine to be sited 1,100’ from a bedroom window. But Ontario requires 1800’ and South Australia requires 1 kilometer or 3,280’. Where is the peer reviewed literature to support such irresponsible setbacks?

These are the kinds of facts that are brought into any local zoning discussion for wind and solar development and these facts are not hype or hysteria. They are facts. And these are facts the wind and solar industry wishes to keep hidden.

These bills will make the State Legislature, and by extension the MPSC, a statewide zoning board. But these entities are not equipped or trained to be land use professionals.

To be effective, zoning needs to be created by communities, not developers. It needs to be designed by zoning professionals rather than corporations. It needs to take into consideration the unique attributes of each community rather than a one-size-fits all statewide approach. And it takes months of study and research to develop either a wind or solar or solar ordinance in isolation let alone a 4 bill package that regulates  wind, solar and storage in one giant leap.

The bottom line is this: local control zoning has allowed Michigan to become a leader in alternative energy development.

These bills simply  grant a statewide easement for both wind and solar development that are designed by the industry and for the industry and simply fatten corporate coffers at the expense of the people we have all sworn an oath to protect.

I urge you to reject this package of bills.

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