Michigan's Proposal 3 not without controversy - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Michigan's Proposal 3 not without controversy

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By Robin Schwartz
FOX 2 News Detroit


SOUTHFIELD, Mich. -- Wind power, solar power, hydropower, biomass -- Proposal 3 requires 25 percent of Michigan's energy to come from those renewable sources by 2025.  However, the clean, green constitutional amendment comes with controversy.

The big utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy are among those urging people to vote no on 3.  They say we shouldn't lock energy policy into the state constitution, and they estimate the proposal will cost Michigan families and businesses $12 billion because 3,100 wind turbines would be needed at $4 million each.

"For us, this isn't a debate about the environment or whether or not we support green energy.  It's about the process in which we would get there," said Megan Brown from Care for Michigan.  "This is a serious threat to Michigan's energy future."

Supporters like the Michigan Nurses Association and environmental groups say just the opposite.  They insist Prop 3 will ensure Michigan's energy future.  They say the plan will bring $10 billion in investments, create 94,000 jobs and significantly reduce pollution.

"Michigan has the lowest renewable energy standard of all of the Midwest, yet we still have the highest energy prices.  That's because we rely on costly coal and all of the pollution that it spews out in terms of healthcare cost in addition," said Dianne Byrum from Michigan Energy, Michigan Jobs.

More than half of Michigan's electricity comes from coal burning power plants.  However, every year 100 percent of the coal is imported from other states.  That costs consumers $1.7 billion a year.

Michigan already has an energy reform law known as the Clean Act passed in 2008.  Because of it ten percent of our electricity must come from renewable sources by 2015.

The other big issue in the Prop 3 debate is cost.  Opponents say if it passes, energy costs will skyrocket.  Supporters say a one percent cap that's part of the proposal will prevent utility companies from jacking up rates.

"Should something go wrong and it costs more to meet this standard, the utilities can stretch out the time it requires to meet the 25 percent standard," Byrum explained.

"What happens when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine?" Brown said.

"How do you know what the world's going to look like in 2025 when we don't even have a federal energy policy?  Having a federal energy policy would make a huge difference in being able to make these determinations in a thoughtful way," said Governor Rick Snyder.

At least 30 other states have renewable energy standards, including Illinois, which has a 25 by 2025 policy in place.  California has the most aggressive policy -- 33 percent by 2020.

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