“It’s almost like a cult.” Activists shout down rural renewable energy projects
In small Michigan townships, local planning meetings have recently turned into shouting matches over wind and solar projects. Town supervisors report being harassed on Facebook and spit on in public. Often, the opposition comes from a small number of people who attend meetings in communities that are considering a renewable energy project — even if they don’t live there. And it’s not just happening in Michigan.
“If you look at the things that are being presented in our community, you’ll see the same exact tactics whether it’s in Ohio or Indiana or wherever you’re talking about,” said Ashlyn Newell, a teacher in Maple Valley Township, Michigan.
The anti-renewable opposition is seeing success. A report from Columbia University found that restrictions on renewable energy projects have popped up in 31 states. NPR reported recently on a proposed solar project that was shut down in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. And in 2022, activists in Montcalm County, Michigan, halted a 375-megawatt wind project.
Some of these protests appear to have ties to fossil fuel interests. A major player in the renewable energy opposition in rural Michigan is Kevon Martis, who works for E&E Legal, a D.C.-based lobbying firm that gets funding from the fossil fuel industry.
Learn more about this growing battle in this two-part video series.
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