LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Ed McBroom, Rep. Dave Prestin and Rep. Greg Markkanen expressed their frustration on Monday that after weeks of passionate advocacy and two midnight sessions, the Michigan House of Representatives last week passed legislation to mandate the Michigan Public Service Commission preempt local zoning to site large, industrial solar, wind, and battery projects. The House also adopted Senate-passed bills to approve a new energy plan that would force Michigan to have a 100% clean energy standard by 2040.
“These bills are precisely the opposite of what the U.P. and Michigan needs,” said Prestin, R-Cedar River. “The most urgent need is to reduce costs and increase reliability. Even if the tiny contribution Michigan makes to global emissions mattered, which it doesn’t, this plan will make living and working here harder for our residents.”
“Many U.P. residents want freedom to install their own solar and have energy independence when possible,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “But they also need reliable and affordable energy when the sun is not out and the wind is not blowing. They also do not want tens of thousands of acres of their communities forced into being solar panels.”
The stated goals of the governor with this plan are to see over 260,000 acres of land transitioned into solar generation. This is primarily directed to large blocks of productive farmland.
McBroom had introduced an amendment to the plan to recognize the recent changes and agreements Cleveland-Cliffs participated in to enable installation of natural gas electric generation in the U.P. and stabilize electric reliability and prices in the region. Those actions cut carbon emissions from the previous coal-fired generation by an estimated 86%. Without the amendment, the new generation units will be forced to pay for costly mitigation or be replaced with non-natural gas or off-set with other carbon programs.
“Since I am in the minority and they did not need my vote, the majority chose to ignore my amendment,” said McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “I knew we had a member of the majority in the House from the U.P. so I passed the amendment along to her, knowing they had to have her vote for passage. The amendment is in the same vein as the one Senator Prussi had amended to the 2008 bipartisan energy plan and recognizes the unique situation of U.P. energy in conjunction with our largest employers and the iron mines. I asked many informed local officials to communicate just how important this was for the mine, Marquette Board of Light and Power, and all U.P. ratepayers. I am very disappointed at the willingness to be the deciding vote without acting on the data from these critical members of our community.”
During the last three days before passage, Rep. Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, was approached by numerous local, union, and state officials along with countless citizens asking her to stand up for both local control and for the McBroom amendment that addresses the natural gas plants that supply power to Cleveland-Cliffs’ Tilden Mine and other U.P. customers. While calculations vary, those both for and against the new policies similarly claim the legislation could add tens of millions in additional costs for Upper Michigan Energy Resources customers without the amendment. Additionally, a study was released just this week indicating that residential ratepayers around the state would also see an increase of at least $100 per month once the governor’s clean energy plan is implemented.
“Rep. Hill simply would not introduce the amendment or commit to supporting it in committee or on the floor,” Markkanen said. “Since she twice announced she would oppose the loss of local control, we thought she was going to fight for an issue so important to all the workers at the mine and residents across the U.P. I was shocked when she broke her promises and voted to end local control.”
“Jacobetti, Mack, Casperson, Kivela, and so many others have put the U.P. and its distinct needs ahead of party when necessary. Rep. Hill abandoned decades of that when she did not even attempt the amendment we needed while being the deciding vote.”
“Rep. Hill even passed on my amendment to recognize the importance of stable pricing for Billerud in the southern U.P.,” Prestin said. “The McBroom amendment addressing the U.P.’s carbon efficient RICE units and giving credit for their 86% reduction should have been a no-brainer for the U.P.”
Hill did propose an amendment to give local governments some funding to go to court against the Michigan Public Service Commission when it overrides local zoning. The bills also contain a study of the UP electric energy landscape – the second in less than five years. However, the bills mandate the commission grant the siting if the solar company meets all the permit requirements or the locals adopt zoning that does the same while the study has no material impact or power to alter the law.
Hill also had two failed amendments that would have reclassified natural gas as being renewable. She then gave a speech supporting the whole energy plan and highlighted how natural gas was unreliable and counter to Michigan’s best interests both for economics and the environment.
“I was first surprised by the amendments, then baffled by the speech,” McBroom said. “Why would someone run amendments to fix the problems of the bills, not speak in support of them, let them fail without a vote, and then speak about how bad the ideas in your amendments are? It is either nonsense or trickery. The study she got is even worse since we have already had at least two major, government funded studies on the U.P. energy situation in the last 10 years.”
In her speech of support for the plan, Hill also described recent weather events such as the rain in February that canceled the UP200 and blizzard in early May of 2023 that collapsed a roof as proof these bills are necessary and a good thing for the U.P.
“We will fight for climate justice,” Hill said in her floor remarks.
“None of those weather events were unprecedented or even out of the norm for U.P. winter weather,” Prestin said. “If Rep. Hill did a little research or spoke with people who lived here longer than 10 years, she would know that. All of us care about the future and being responsible. If we make these changes, there won’t be a future here any of us can afford or have our freedom and land to enjoy.”
“Democrats clamoring about process means nothing when they won’t engage with us legislatively,” said Markkanen, who serves on the House Education Committee. “I know there are former educators across the aisle. I’m sure they dealt with the same classroom distractions that I did. It appears they forgot about the remedies for those problems. If they truly recognize the need for school safety resources, I’d give them some of the same advice I gave some of my more distracted students – it’s time to turn off the phone, sit down at your desk, and get to work. We need a committee hearing so we can get these bills done.”
“There are so many Yoopers with Finnish heritage, making celebrating Finnish history all the more important in the Upper Peninsula,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “Saunas are essential to Finnish culture. Finns of all generations enjoy traditional saunas for cleansing and as a vital source of relaxation and socializing.”
“Pvt. Karna served his country bravely in its time of greatest need,” Markkanen said. “As a fellow veteran, I’m honored to introduce a bill to memorialize his service and sacrifice in the Painsedale and South Range communities.”
“The governor’s new Good Jobs 2.0 proposal has a lot in common with Hollywood’s recent obsession with remaking classic movies; the only difference being, unlike many of the movies, the original Good Jobs program was terrible too,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “Michigan doesn’t need to lure coastal corporations into our state so we can have more big fancy ribbon cutting events. We need a real economic development strategy to support our struggling small businesses across Michigan.”