Former Alpena attorney and Michigan state Attorney General Frank Kelley has strong opinions on Proposal 3, also known as the 25x25 effort, that will be on the ballot during November's general election. The proposal would mandate that a quarter of the state's energy be generated from renewable sources by the year 2025.
Kelley said if passed, the burden of paying for the construction of wind and solar farms would fall on utility providers, which in turn would push the cost to customers through higher fees. He said with many people in the state still struggling to make ends meet - senior citizens in particular - passing the propoal would hurt them further financially.
"This would put $1 billion worth of wind turbines in operation without any evidence we need them," Kelley said. "The utilities would be expected to pay for them, and ultimately it would be the customers who would end up paying in the end."
Kelley, who was attorney general longer than anyone ever, said those trying to get the proposal passed are working to get the new statute into the state constitution, where it would then take another vote to remove or amend it.
"The proposal is based on improper procedure, and I'm opposed to it," he said. "That is no way to make laws, and it really violates the basic rights of the citizens. They are trying to slip this into the state constitution like they did with the state gambling law, and we have seen how that has worked out."
Kelley said the state currently has a plan that calls for 10 percent of all power generated in the state to be "green" by 2015. He said maybe after that goal is met and it is proven the state needs more power from other sources, that percentage could be bumped up. He said the time is not right for that now, however.
"We passed a statute in 2008 to reach 10 percent by 2015, and right now we are at about 5 or 6 percent and we'll do more by then," Kelley said. "We need to continue to do this in increments and with somebody overseeing it. Michigan isn't the best state for sun or wind, and if we find we can make the power and it is needed, we can do more after 2015."
The federal government has continued to strengthen laws aimed at the coal-burning industry, and Kelley said he is behind moving toward natural gas. He said the installation of the wind turbines and other projects aimed at producing green power could create jobs in the short term, but those jobs still will be there when the time is right. Those in favor of the plan say if passed, it could lead to tens of thousands of jobs.
"Obviously jobs are a good thing, and there will be some jobs when these devices are put in, but we still don't even know if they are needed or not and how much it is going to cost the average person on their utility bill," Kelley said. "They will force higher payments to the customers to pay for these things that we may not need. I just can't support something like this."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.