LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ed McBroom on Thursday voted against a series of bills, commonly referred to as the Michigan Green Energy Bills, that would mandate a 100% clean energy standard by 2040. The measures would set a requirement of 60% renewable energy by 2035 and try to replace fossil fuel generation with various renewables, particularly solar.
“In order to replace the electricity with solar, the governor has set a goal of building over 265,000 acres of solar generation,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “In order to accomplish this, the state must end any serious local control over siting of such operations.”
Various bills to supersede local zoning of large, industrial solar operations are also a part of the bill package and have already passed out of the House Energy committee last week. These bills would require the Michigan Public Service Commission to permit any solar project in any place if it meets the basic requirements the commission sets for siting.
“The requirement of so much land would place incredible pressure on productive farmland or forests,” McBroom said. “Beyond the removal of local communities’ input and decisions, I am shocked and disturbed by the casual willingness to impair so much of the land vital to our state’s second largest industry and all that goes with it in food production and forest products as well as tourism and outdoor recreation.”
Committee testimony claimed this farmland could still be utilized, mainly for raising sheep. This was met by scorn from McBroom: “I am not sure who believes there is a market out there for raising the volume of sheep 265,000 acres would allow, let alone where we will find the farmers to do it.”
McBroom offered two amendments to the bills in an attempt to bring more citizen input to the process and to protect the Upper Peninsula’s iron mining industry.
“One of my amendments expanded the Public Service Commission from three members to six, one from the U.P. and required at least one member be a regular, small business or homeowner ratepayer. If this commission is going to make such immense decisions, there should be more than the three insiders from industry or utilities with which it is usually populated,” McBroom said.
McBroom’s other amendment addressed the recent building of two natural gas-fired generating stations and the contribution Cleveland-Cliffs made to those projects.
“When coal fired plants were slated to close with no replacements 10 years ago, U.P. residents were forced to pay special fees to keep the plants running. Cleveland-Cliffs made a huge investment into the stability of the U.P. energy grid by working with stakeholders to help enable the construction of the new natural gas plants. The retirement of the coal-fired power plants and construction of these new highly efficient natural gas plants resulted in an 85% carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions reduction. Despite this remarkable achievement, without my amendment, U.P. residents and industry would face millions of dollars in additional energy costs annually,” McBroom said.
Cleveland-Cliffs’ Tilden Mine in Marquette County is the largest energy user in the U.P. Cleveland-Cliffs employs more than 900 individuals in the U.P., with the workforce represented by the United Steelworkers. Failure to allow Tilden and other U.P. ratepayers to receive credit for the huge CO2 emissions reduction already achieved by the new units would dramatically increase energy costs.
“Overall, these bills, bringing a failed California energy plan to Michigan, will hurt our residents, land, rights, businesses and ability to live in the U.P., where energy is already too costly,” McBroom said. “Further, the unwillingness to recognize the contributions already made to stabilize energy costs, is setting us back on the dangerous path of additional charges we all faced less than 10 years ago.
“I call on the House and our U.P. House members to recognize the needs of fair policy for the mine, and better yet, to send all these bills back for consideration of a policy that will reduce the costs of energy while increasing dependability. The last thing we need are orders from the governor to turn down the heat or shut off the air conditioning in order to keep charging the electric cars — that will not keep us warm when dead in the snow at night during a blizzard.”