Jul 19, 2007

Hune bill will do little but earn brownie points

In what can only be described as a Terri Schiavo-like law that will apply to just one, single company Rep. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg Township, introduced a bill last week that will do little but earn him some brownie points with property owners opposed to overhead transmission lines being built in Livingston County.

Hune introduced House Bill 5030 last week that will requite Novi-based International Transmission Company (ITC) to bury transmission lines that stretch more than five miles in townships with populations between 10,000 and 15,000. According to the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus, ITC – which owns the transmission lines once owned by Detroit Edison - plans to put 21 miles of lines on poles nearly 100 feet tall in Milford, Brighton, Hartland, Oceola and Genoa townships, and it has won approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MSPC). Rep. Chris Ward, R-Brighton, who represents Brighton, Milford, Oceola and Genoa Townships did not join in co-sponsoring the bill. Why not if it is such a good bill?

The attorneys at the nonpartisan Legislative Service Bureau that drafted the bill are very professional and know that they are doing, but a bill that singles out one company hardly seems legal. The bill’s title says it amends “certain installation requirements of international transmission company utility lines. There is also the question of if the Legislature even has jurisdiction over the independent MSPC, and if this violates the separation of powers because the MSPC is part of the executive branch of government.

The mission of the Michigan Public Service Commission is to grow Michigan's economy and enhance the quality of life of its communities by assuring safe and reliable energy, telecommunications, and transportation services at reasonable prices. The commission is composed of three members appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. It remains to be seen if the Legislature can overturn a decision by the MPSC. Most effective Legislators would use their influence behind the scenes to get a satisfactory solution, but this piece of narrow, showboating legislation demonstrates the apparent lack of influence. This bill seems more about campaigning for Hune’s next election after he is term-limited in a year that getting anything accomplished. The bill was referred to the House Energy Technology Committee.

Critics of the transmission lines argue it will lower property values, but that’s the same, familiar argument used when any new construction project is proposed that people oppose. It’s a familiar argument used by the Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) group, but actual cases of lowered property vales are as rare as snow in September.

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