Glenn: Almer Twp. court victory affirms local control on wind

Lansing, Mich. -- Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Williams Twp., Associate Speaker of the House Pro Tem and chairman of the state House Energy Policy Committee, Friday congratulated Almer Township officials on their victory in a federal lawsuit over the township's wind energy ordinance, an outcome he said reaffirms local officials' authority to regulate industrial wind development projects. Glenn pledged that as Energy Policy chairman, he "will also block any attempt to pass new state legislation that strips local officials and voters of the authority to decide this contentious issue for themselves."

"State government should neither mandate or prohibit wind energy development, but instead leave it to local elected officials and ultimately voters themselves to decide what's best for each locality, as voters did on the ballot in twenty local jurisdictions in the Thumb last May," Rep. Glenn said.

"In that same spirit, the current state law mandating that 15 percent of all power generated in Michigan must be produced by wind or some other 'renewable' resource should be repealed," he said, "returning instead to a free market in which energy producers and consumers alike are free to choose based on market supply and demand, without government interference or intervention in the market."

Judge Thomas Ludington, federal judge for the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Northern Division, Friday ruled in Almer Township's favor in a lawsuit in which the township was sued by Tuscola Wind III, LLC, after township officials declared a moratorium on further wind development while they considered changes to the township's wind ordinance. Tuscola Wind III contended in the suit that township officials had engaged in "exclusionary zoning," a violation of state law.

Ludington rejected the claim, ruling that the township "reasonably interpreted its zoning ordinance and, under that reasonable interpretation, (the wind developer) was undisputedly in noncompliance with the zoning ordinance. Because at least one of the bases on which the (township) board premised its denial was lawful, ...the township board’s denial will be affirmed."

Glenn said the federal court ruling will provide direction and relief to other local governments in Bay, Isabella, Lapeer, and Midland counties who are now wresting with the issue in response to wind development proposals.

He cited Burnside Township in Lapeer County in particular, which ten days ago was notified by EMC Insurance Cos. -- the same company that insures Almer Township -- that Burnside Township's liability coverage will not be renewed solely because township officials are considering adoption of a more restrictive wind development ordinance in response to a possible wind project proposal by Detroit Edison.

"A costly legal war over wind turbines in northern Lapeer County is such a sure bet that an insurance agent told the Burnside Township Board of Trustees Monday he won’t run the risk of writing an insurance policy for the municipality," the Lapeer County Press reported Oct. 25th.

Click here to read the County Press article.

Geoffrey G. Lansky, an agent for EMC Insurance Cos., "pointed out that EMC has covered Ellington and Almer townships in the lawsuits filed by (wind developers)... Lansky said he believes the playbook essentially calls for draining municipalities of finances until local officials eventually capitulate," the County Press reported.

The County Press further reported that "Lansky put the blame on state lawmakers for increasing mandates for how much electricity originates with renewable energy sources like wind and solar. Per state law, they must produce 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021."

Glenn has been an outspoken opponent of and last December voted against the legislation that increased the state renewable energy mandate from 10 percent to 15 percent of all energy generated in Michigan. He said his committee will hold a public hearing later this year on legislation to eliminate that state mandate altogether.