Lawmaker under fire after likening utility to 'terrorist' he'd like to 'shoot'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Gary Glenn

Lansing — A utility workers union is calling for the resignation of State Rep. Gary Glenn after he compared Consumers Energy to “terrorists” he’d like to "shoot.”

The comment came in a Tuesday House Energy Policy Committee hearing as panel chairman Glenn, R-Williams Township, described a meeting last week in which he said a lobbyist for Consumers Energy threatened to sabotage legislation that would allow the state to approve long-term electricity rates for industrial customers. The House on Thursday approved the bill.

The legislation, sought by Dow Chemical for its Hemlock Semiconductor operation, was held hostage by a Consumers lobbyist who demanded Glenn stop disrespecting the company’s brand in committee, the lawmaker said.   

“That kind of arrogance is bred of monopoly power,” said Glenn, a second-term legislator. “…What I’d like to do is shoot the terrorists, but I am not willing to shoot through the hostages to hit the terrorists.”

It’s not the first time Glenn has made inflammatory comments toward the company, said Patrick Dillon, president of the Michigan State Utilities Workers Council, but Tuesday’s comments were “by far the most outrageous.”

“Those comments are not acceptable in any work place today,” Dillon said. “The fact that he’s an elected official only makes it that much more important that he act professionally and civilly.”

Absent Glenn’s resignation, Dillon said the union would like to see House leadership remove Glenn from the committee.

Glenn was unrepentant Friday when he responded to the union's demands:

"One more on a long list of reasons I'm glad to have played a leadership role in helping make Michigan a right-to-work state ,where individual employees are no longer forced to join or give money to such organizations under threat of being fired," he said in an email.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce on Friday called for a public apology from Glenn.

“Every employer, regardless of size or type of business, has the right to participate in Michigan’s legislative process and should be treated with courtesy and respect,” Chamber President and CEO Rich Studley said in a statement. “There are times when people of good will may disagree on public policy, but state lawmakers must refrain from discouraging participation in the legislative process through reckless and disparaging comments.”

Consumers Energy Spokeswoman Katelyn Carey said Glenn’s description of the meeting in question was “not the way it came across to others in the room.”

“We were disappointed in the rhetoric that Chairman Glenn used against individuals in our company,” Carey said. “We work very hard for all of communities across the state. The language he used was frankly inappropriate and not necessary.”

But Glenn refused to back down.

"I understand and respect the Chamber's obligation to respond on behalf of a prominent dues-paying member," he said in another email. "Any time the CEO of Consumers Energy wants to appear before the House Energy Policy Committee to apologize for her corporate lobbyist's threat to scuttle legislation affecting 1,500 jobs in the region I represent, I will certainly accommodate her."

The controversy comes as Glenn is running in the Michigan Senate District 31 Republican primary against Kevin Daley of Lum.

Glenn also is a sponsor of the "Energy Freedom" package, which would allow people to generate renewable energy more freely and be reimbursed more generously to sidestep “monopoly utilities” like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

“They’re opposed to competition, period,” Glenn said of the utilities in early May.

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