The Huron County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose Michigan Ballot Proposal 3, more commonly known as “25 by 25.”
The proposal would amend the state constitution to require utilities to generate at least 25 percent of all electricity from renewable resources by 2025.
The state currently has a goal of reaching 10 percent by 2015 through the Michigan Clean, Renewable, and Efficient Energy Act of 2008.
The board also voted to join the Clean Affordable Renewable Energy (CARE) for Michigan Coalition, which opposes the proposal. CARE claims that “25 by 25” would cost the state at least $12 billion, and require at least 31,000 wind turbines if they tried to reach the requirement solely through wind energy.
Ron Chriss, a regional manager for DTE energy, made a presentation to the board about CARE’s fight against “25 by 25.”
“I’m a guy out here asking for them (windmills), saying they’re good, but it has to be done the right way,” Chriss said. “… If the right technology is there and it takes us there, we are more than happy to go in that direction. But right now it has not proven to be a great baseload generation. What happens on a July day when it is one of those 95 degree days? Typically the wind is not blowing. … I don’t know what my CEO is going to do when we have to put all this in, and 25 percent of our generation comes from a renewable source. I don’t know how much more he is going to want to spend on some of the other amenities.”
Chriss said that other forms of renewable resources would likely decrease if the proposal passed.
“I don’t want to say we would be done with solar, digesters, biomass, and all that, but in order to make that 10-year plan, we have to go for the biggest … and that’s wind,” he said.
He said that if the 31,000-plus wind turbines needed were lined up on I-75 from the Ohio border to Sault Ste Marie, there would be one every 1,000 feet.
He said that this increase and a likely subsequent increase in user fees would cause chaos.
“If this passes, we’re going to be in board rooms like this and we’re going to have to go hit Lansing and get some sort of state ordinance,” Chriss said. “…. You guys are going to be upset. Yeah, it’s job security for me. But I’m going to be a hated man because I’m going to be in here saying ‘we gotta, we gotta, we gotta’, and there’s nothing I can do because it’s a constitutional amendment. They didn’t go the legislative route because they knew it would not pass. This is their way of buying their way onto the ballot.”
Chriss claimed that several left wing environmental groups were responsible for getting the proposal on the ballot. He urged the commissioners to join CARE as soon as possible, as absentee ballots and the election cycle would be coming soon.
“You guys are watched because this is where all the activity is going,” Chriss said.
The commission went on to read and unanimously vote for an already written proposal opposing “25 by 25.”
The proposal cited how the amendment was missing a bi-partisan proponent like the 2008 law, that the constitution was not the place for energy policy and would hurt state flexibility, that there would be additional costs to customers, and that the additional wind turbines would take up a significant amount of state land.
County attorney Stephen Allen said he was opposed to “25 by 25” as an amendment to the constitution.
“I think, from a legal standpoint, the constitution should be the foundation of our government, and not necessarily for setting policy,” Allen said. “The constitution takes a long view of what government should be. In my mind it’s not an appropriate matter for the constitution, energy policy.”
When asked if it would be appropriate for the commission to join CARE after already passing a resolution opposing “25 by 25,” Allen said it ultimately was a political decision for the board to make.
“My initial reaction is that I’m not wild about a governmental entity joining organizations as a general proposition, but I’d like time to think.”
“Can we think for you?” Commissioner John Horny asked.
“Sure, and that’s your job,” Allen said.
“I would say that we passed a good resolution, and that we do not join a public service commission who have interests of their own, and not necessarily always the county’s, Horny said. “I would go along with one and not the other.”
Board Chairman Clark Elftman said he agreed with Allen.
“… If individuals want to join this CARE, and list themselves as Huron County Board of Commissioners members, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” he said. “I agree with Steve (Allen) that a governmental body (shouldn’t get involved). We speak for the people.”
Commissioner Ron Wruble said he viewed joining CARE as a necessity.
“If this passes, and Ron (Chriss) explained it very well earlier, do you know what it’s going to do to this county?” Wruble asked. “Do you know what this county is going to look like in however many years, moreso than what it’s already going to look like? You might as well move the swingset behind your house because there’s a turbine going up. I think that this board needs to jump on it as a body, and I agree with what Mr. Chriss says. People are watching what goes on in this boardroom because we’re kind of at the forefront of … (this) business, whether we like it or not. We need to stand up.”
Commissioner John Bodis said that he would join CARE as an individual if the board decided not to. He also brought up the possibility of CARE referencing the county’s resolution, if they decided not to directly join.
Commissioner Steve Vaughan, who represents District No. 4, said that he thought CARE’s interests were in line with the county’s, and that by joining CARE they might help sway urban voters.
“Having the largest amount of wind energy in my district, than any other district in this county I would like this board to support this if we could,” Vaughan said. “… If we at least stand up for it … they’re going to say ‘hey, the people that have the most interest in this are standing up for it’.”
Elftman said that he would not be opposed to signing a document to join CARE if the board decided to pass it.
Vaughan said he believed it was “in the board’s best interest” and that it wouldn’t be anything they’d be “short-changed on,” before making a motion to sign an agreement in support of CARE.
The motion was passed without opposition.