Land use approvals for solar and wind developments will no longer be subject to spotty and sometimes arbitrary local zoning ordinances. They will now be approved under new renewable energy laws which give most of the control over such land use approvals to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). Local control under zoning ordinances is now muted and, in some instances, could be eliminated for renewable energy projects.
On November 2, 2023, the Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bill 5120 and House Bill 5121. The package of bills passed the Senate on November 8, 2023, and are currently awaiting final approval from Governor Gretchen Whitmer, expected in the coming weeks.
Under the new laws, Michigan’s Clean and Renewable Energy and Energy Waste Reduction Act will be amended to allow either utilities or independent power producers to apply for a certificate from the MPSC. Although the process of obtaining a certificate will allow local units of government to contribute to and potentially challenge the approval of renewable energy projects within their jurisdictions, the decision of the MPSC to issue the certificate could control regardless of objections. While some lawmakers believe the legislation will encourage and facilitate Michigan’s lofty renewable energy goals, others argue that local municipalities should not lose their historical ability to control land uses.
The legislation takes effect in 1 year. Presumably, this delay will allow the MPSC to pass rules on the details of how it will issue certificates. Also, it is possible that judicial challenges will be made to the laws since many municipalities and public interest groups oppose such legislation on constitutional grounds.
Dawda Mann is counseling its clients, engaged in renewable energy projects and related land use entitlements, to anticipate the impact of these new laws. Reach out to attorneys Tyler Tennent and Alex Masson at Dawda Mann to find out how your renewable energy projects will be affected.
Article submitted by Tyler Tennent and Alex Masson