Several blue states have deprived rural counties of the ability to reject the massive green energy projects that corporations want to site in their communities, while green industrial interests and environmentalist groups have poured money into state capitals.
Michigan, California, New York, and Illinois have all passed legislation that consolidates authority over land use issues and rules with state-level bureaucrats at the expense of local governments that could have altered their own zoning codes to stem the tide of industrial green projects like solar and wind farms. These policies deprive rural residents in these states of their freedom and local autonomy, while also benefiting the corporate interests that line the pockets of the states’ Democratic governors, state policy experts and lawmakers told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“Much of the renewables business and movement has been co-opted by big corporations,” which “are spending millions” on politics “because this is a matter of billions for them,” Edward Ring, a senior fellow for the California Policy Institute and the organization’s co-founder, told the DCNF.
“What we are seeing, for example, with the ‘Inflation Reduction Act,’ is one of the biggest gifts of money to corporations that we have ever seen in this country,” Ring told the DCNF, referring to the IRA’s subsidies facilitating the rise of green energy.
Since 2020, there have been about 350 local restrictions or rejections of solar and wind projects across the country, according to energy expert Robert Bryce’s Renewable Rejection Database.
Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently enacted her state’s green energy mandate, which sets a target for 100% green energy generation by 2040. The legislation has the state poised to significantly ramp up construction of solar and wind developments, as well as carbon capture pipelines that will be needed for the state’s natural gas plants to continue to operate in the future.
One of the bills Whitmer signed into law as part of the package, H.B. 5120, specifically allows the Michigan Public Services Commission, the state’s utility regulatory body overseen by officials appointed by the governor, to exercise permitting authority for large green energy projects rather than leaving zoning discretion to the municipal governments. Several local opposition campaigns in more rural locales across the state were able to hinder major green energy developments in their communities, but the new law could make similar grassroots success in the future effectively impossible.
Whitmer’s green energy package and the siting bill “very clearly advance the interests of monopoly utilities, big wind, and solar developers and extreme environmental groups over the interests of local communities and rural Michiganders,” Jason Hayes, the director of energy and environmental policy for the Mackinac Center, a Michigan-based think tank, told the DCNF. “Put another way, these bills protect the profits of politically favored and heavily subsidized wind and solar developers while sacrificing the rights and interests of the communities that will have to endure the wind turbines and solar arrays developers want to build… rural Michiganders will have to endure both the rising costs and the intrusions into their lives and environment as massive increases in wind and solar development begin to occur.”
A nonprofit organization linked to DTE Energy, a major utility company that Hayes told the DCNF stands to gain from the state’s green energy mandate, shelled out $2 million to help Michigan Democrats in 2022, according to The Detroit News. DTE Energy also gave $400,185 to organizations that spent, directly or indirectly, on Whitmer’s behalf before and after her victory in the 2018 gubernatorial race, according to the Michigan Capitol Confidential.