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Bridge Michigan
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Opinion | Forcing wind, solar on rural Michigan is bad policy

We read with great interest the recent guest commentary advocating for clean energy initiatives in Michigan. While the article paints a rosy picture of the symbiotic relationship between clean energy projects and agriculture, there are vital concerns that must not be ignored. These concerns, voiced by our farmers and locally elected officials, underscore the complexity of this issue.

 Jaime Green, Dave Rushing headshots
State Rep. Jaime Greene, R-Richmond, represents portions of Lapeer, St. Clair, and Macomb counties. Dave Rushing serves as a St. Clair County Commissioner and as vice chair of the Riley Township Planning Commission. He owns a 160-acre farm in Riley Township.

First and foremost, the claim that clean energy and agriculture are natural allies overlooks a fundamental reality: the substantial land requirement for renewable energy projects. If the push to rely solely on wind and solar continues, estimates indicate the need for a significant portion of Michigan’s farmland, which understandably raises alarm among farmers. Our farmers are the backbone of our economy, and their ability to sustain their livelihoods directly impacts the well-being of our local communities.

What’s disheartening is the assertion that under House Bills 5120-21 locals would have a seat at the table in the decision-making process regarding clean energy projects. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The circumvention of local ordinances and master plans, coupled with the sidelining of the very communities these projects affect, has created a profound sense of frustration and distrust among community members. The current legislation, far from fostering inclusivity, dismisses the voices of those most affected. 

The implication that locals have a true say in these decisions is not just inaccurate, but an outright lie given the way the legislation has been crafted and passed by the House. Under these bills, all the neighbors and local zoning officials can say no and the MPSC can still force the projects on local communities with little regard for residents’ concerns.

Moreover, companion legislation advancing through the Legislature focuses on wind, solar and storage projects while neglecting promising alternatives such as nuclear energy, hydrogen fusion, biomass and landfill usage.

Investing in these technologies could provide efficient and sustainable solutions to our energy needs without encroaching on valuable agricultural land. By diversifying our approach, we can meet our energy goals while safeguarding the interests of Michigan’s agricultural communities.

Let’s also address some pressing issues often overlooked in the rush toward clean energy. 

Economically, the shift from agriculture to clean energy could lead to job losses, reduced tax revenue and overall instability in rural areas. While clean energy projects indeed create some jobs, these should not come at the expense of a large number of existing employment opportunities within the agricultural sector.

Additionally, the environmental impact cannot be dismissed. Clean Energy is not clean at all. It requires massive amounts of “dirty energy” to produce and maintain the infrastructure required for wind and solar. Soil degradation, disruption of local ecosystems and increased water usage are serious concerns associated with large-scale renewable energy projects. 

The writer also references “energy storage projects.” If this is a vague reference to  lithium batteries or similar infrastructure, townships do not have the resources to battle a battery fire in addition to addressing the toxins being released into the environment. Just look at the recent situation in New York, where the governor had to issue a warning for residents to stay indoors until the fire was extinguished, which took weeks. Is the State of Michigan going to cover all expenses incurred at the local level? 

On a legal and ethical level, respecting local ordinances and master plans isn’t just about safeguarding our agricultural heritage; it’s about fostering a sense of unity and understanding among neighbors. Divisive policies and projects can lead to long-lasting tensions, impacting not just farmers but the entire community fabric. Noise pollution, disruption of clean water sources, the impact on the disabled and other potential health concerns related to clean energy projects all warrant rigorous assessment. 

It’s time to take a step back and reevaluate the path the environmental lobby is rushing us toward. We need to talk about every aspect of massively expanded wind and solar – not just empty promises – and how “clean” this technology truly is. We need to talk about the state coming in and forcing local communities to go against their ordinances and master plans. We must ensure that the interests of our communities are not just heard but genuinely prioritized in these critical decisions that will shape our future.

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Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact David Zeman. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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