Link

January 8, 2013 – Michigan Administrative Judge Shows Bias - Today, at a hearing of the Michigan Public Services Commission (MPSC), administrative judge Dennis Mack excluded nearly ALL opposition evidence from being considered in the smart meter opt out case, U-17053.  Nearly all evidence that had been offered by multiple intervenors has been stricken from the record on the transparently false claim that health, safety and privacy issues are “outside the scope” of this proceeding.  This, despite the fact that the MPSC had been ordered to hear evidence on these issues by the Michigan Court of Appeals, and had already refused to hear such evidence in its general rate case, U-15768.  Administrative judge Theresa Sheets in that newly reopened case also denied rights to 4 people who sought to intervene to raise health and privacy issues the original intervenors had waived.  All on the theory that it was three years too late to intervene, even though the case had just been reopened to hear the very issues these intervenors wanted to raise.

Administrative law judges in Michigan are assigned to MPSC cases by another state agency and they are supposed to function independently in making their determinations.  Today we saw that this was not the case.  Some had initially taken false comfort from the judge’s pleasant and patient manner in dealing with the intervenors, many of whom had little prior experience representing themselves in a legal setting.  But at the end of the hearing, when it really mattered, nearly every one of his many rulings favored the exclusion of evidence, just as he had been asked to do by Detroit Edison’s attorney and by an attorney representing MPSC staff.

The evidence that was excluded in this case would have established the harm that smart meters are causing our entire society and also the particular hardship suffered by people who are entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The point was well established that this entire opt out case was begun prematurely since the Commission has yet to hold an evidentiary hearing on whether smart meters should even be legal in this state.  The judge was not even willing to consider health testimony as it might relate to the type of opt-out meter to be allowed.

Much of the health testimony offered by Linda Kurtz and Cynthia Edwards was specifically designed to show, based on the personal experiences of at least 5 witnesses, that a smart meter with its radio turned off causes nearly as much trouble for the electro-sensitive people as a smart meter with the radio turned on.  This goes directly to the type of meter that should be allowed as part of an opt-out policy and is very clearly within the scope of this case.  None of this testimony was allowed.

The reason a smart meter with its radio turned off causes so much mischief has to do with the switched mode power supply contained in all the new electronic meters, but not contained in the old analog meters.  The Cusumanos were offering an expert electrical witness who would explain what it is about the new meters that causes this problem.  That witness was excluded along with the personal testimonies.

A very young attorney, representing Michigan’s Attorney General, sat mute through the entire proceeding, never objecting to anything that was done or making any contributions of a positive nature.  We were appalled today, just as we were in the U-15768 case, by the failure of the Attorney General to protect the interests of the people of this state.

This judge also ruled that five people who had submitted personal sworn testimony concerning how their lives have been diminished by smart meters were “not expert witnesses” and therefore not qualified to speak as lay witnesses even as to their own health and to their personal experience and observations as to how their health had been affected by smart meters.

Finally the judge refused to grant expert witness status to a Red Seal electrical consultant from Canada who has testified before numerous legislative bodies on matters within the scope of his professional competence.  These testimonies included the Texas Senate, Oregon Senate and the Parliament in British Columbia, Canada

Today’s developments were not entirely a surprise since we have encountered dishonesty and foul play at almost every turn in dealing with this state agency.

We need to launch an appeal of what happened here today.  We are fighting a battle, not just for ourselves, but for the people of the State of Michigan.  Dishonesty in state officials makes us angry!  Does it make you angry too?  We need your HELP!

OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS SO FAR

We at Michigan Stop Smart Meters have, in concert with others, been struggling for nearly two years now to raise health, safety and privacy issues with respect to so called “smart meters” now being deployed by Detroit Edison on the east side of state, and by Consumers Energy on the west side.  In concert with others we petitioned city and county governments to endorse our cause and got the backing of 24 local governments.  This resulted in a pretend MPSC investigation, but also led to the introduction of two proposed new laws.  We sponsored this website and public educational meetings in Ferndale, Plymouth, Holland and soon in Muskegon.  We have been interviewed by Macomb Daily, Oakland Press, Detroit News, Hometown Newspapers, by Holland radio’s “Talk of the Town” program, Fox17 News in Grand Rapids, and by Channel 13 in Grand Rapids.

We have been closely following two cases in Oakland Circuit Court where Detroit Edison has sued local couples who changed their own meters when they became ill and could get no relief from the utility.  One of these cases is going well.  In the other case the couple has suffered an unjust decision and is in need of our help to mount an appeal.

Appeals are also needed for the two MPSC decisions that muzzled us from presenting necessary evidence on the record.

The decision has been made to proceed without legal representation, unless we can find an attorney to help us pro bono.  If we had an attorney on the clock at usual commercial rates the utility could easily bankrupt us.  Even though our members have enough experience to manage these cases without being represented by an attorney (if we must), we still need money for filing fees, for transcripts, for travel expenses of expert witnesses and for legal consultations.

If you are angry at what Detroit Edison and its cronies in state offices are doing to Michigan utility customers, PLEASE HELP US by donation or by volunteering your time!

click to Donate

Link

June 21st, 2012 – Oakland County, Michigan – Commissioners Support Smart Meter Refusal.  Today, on a unanimous consent vote, the 25 member Oakland County, Michigan, Board of Commissioners approved a resolution that supports the right of every utility customer to be able to opt-out of a ‘smart’ electric meter without cost or penalty.  The resolution also contains language calling for it to be forwarded to the Governor, the Attorney General, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), and the members of the legislature who represent Oakland County.  Our heartfelt thanks go to Commissioner James Runestad for proposing and spearheading this fine document, and to Christine Long and her General Government Committee that earlier held a very thorough and well run hearing on this where DTE was given its chance to defend its program and many citizens expressed their passionate support for the resolution to escape the DTE program.

One of the highlights of the “Public Comments” was an emotional talk by Dominic Cusumano, who spoke of the illness experienced by his wife soon after being exposed to a smart meter on their home in Addison Township.  He explained how this objectionable device had been installed on their home without their knowledge or consent, how he had demanded its removal, and how unresponsive the utility had been to their predicament.  Ultimately he stated that he had to remove the meter himself in self-defense.  For that he is being sued by the utility and is currently awaiting a decision from the Oakland County Circuit Court.  A video of his brief talk can be seen in the linked news story by Oakland Press.

We understand that, just before the public session of the Commission, there was an apparently desperate (but unsuccessful) last minute effort by DTE representatives to lobby Commissioners not to do this.   When the public session began, the Runestad resolution was on the “Consent Agenda” and it quickly became apparent that there was not a single Commissioner asking it to be removed to the “Regular Agenda” where it might have been debated and a roll call vote taken.  About 20 citizens had come to this Commission meeting prepared to speak for the resolution during “Public Comments”.  When it became apparent the resolution had already passed, most used their time at the microphone to thank the Commission for doing the right thing.

None of the above events would have been possible but for the climate of opinion created in southeastern Michigan.  This foundation was developed by the efforts of many individuals.  I would love to name them here but am concerned that in remembering some, I might overlook others.

Two who must be singled out were John and Pauline Holeton, whose efforts for this cause were tireless!  These two went from city council to city council, many times driving an hour or more each way to go to a meeting where they were only allowed to speak for 3 minutes during “Public Comments”.  Often they were able to persuade others to go with them and also speak for 3 minutes.

At first John and Pauline faced an almost impossibly uphill battle, but gradually, little by little, their efforts began to bear fruit.  They distributed thousands of DVDs.  In time others joined in to help until the effort snowballed into what we saw today.

Before today’s action, twenty-one units of local government had passed resolutions urging caution in the rush to deploy smart meters, calling for investigation of the health and privacy effects, and supporting the right of citizens to ‘opt-out’.  As a result of these local government actions the Michigan Public Service Commission opened an investigation in January.  A report on that investigation is due out next week.

There are now two bills pending in the state legislature which would give citizens the right to opt-out, proposed by representatives McMillin and Opsommer, who also deserve our heartfelt thanks.  While these bills are currently languishing in the House Energy Committee, it is to be hoped that today’s action by Oakland County will help to move them along.  The utilities in this state have had too sweet a deal in Lansing for too long.  It is surely time to change that!

Click here for text of resolution.

Click here for news story in Oakland Press with video.

Link

February 28th, 2012 – Representative Paul Opsommer (R) of Dewitt introduced today a bill in the Michigan House, HR 5439, to allow utility consumers to opt out of “advanced meters” otherwise known as ‘smart’ photo of Michigan Capitol buildingmeters.  This bill, like the McMillin bill before, has been referred to the House Energy Committee.  If either bill passes we will have reached a real landmark in our fight against an abusive technology.

This latest bill does go even further than the first one to protect us:

  • Respect for community moratoriums.
  • Utility requested to remove an ‘advanced meter’ must do so within 15 days
  • Compromise on fees:  A $50 removal fee – but only if there had been previous consent by present or previous owner.  No ongoing monthly fees for opting out!
  • Utility may not offer a discount or rebate to anyone for accepting an advanced meter.
  • Except where customer explicitly requests an “advanced meter”, the utility must send letter out 6 months prior to install explaining what an “advanced meter” is and explaining opt-out procedure.
  • Where customer has formally requested opt-out, utility must acknowledge in writing.
  • Covers municipal energy utilities as well as those regulated by MPSC.
  • Customer may opt-out of later generation advanced meter even if first generation one was accepted.
  • Advanced meter data transmissions must be encrypted and may not contain the customer’s name or address.  Only a customer identifier number is allowed.
  • Customer data may not be posted on internet except with a secure protocol and a password.
  • Customer data may not be given to law enforcement except under court supervision.
  • Shutoffs shall require an in person visit at least 48 hours in advance to verify address.
  • Secure system and audits by Commission concerning shutoff procedures.

There are only two provisions we can think of that we would like to see added to this bill.  One would be to redefine “advanced meter” to include any meter that is capable of recording and storing usage in intervals of an hour or less, can act as a gateway between appliances in a home and the utility and also has two way real time communication with the utility to support demand-response programs.

While wireless radio transmissions are one of the major objections to the present variety of ‘smart’ meter, such wireless communication should not be viewed as an essential or defining attribute of a ‘smart meter’.  After all, in some other nations, all the objectives of a smart meter program have been achieved by fiber optic or other hard-wired means.  The definition matters if consumers are to be protected from ALL violations of their privacy and Fourth Amendment rights.  No utility customer should ever be forced to accept a meter that is a surveillance device but sends the customer data over a phone line or over the power line itself.

The other provision we would like is a strong community opt-out.  It is not clear if the community moratorium provision in this bill would afford more than temporary protection.  Any city or township should be able to enact a zoning ordinance that would establish certain safe zones for those citizens who are concerned about the possible long term health effects of being bombarded 24/7 with radio waves from their neighbors meters as well as their own.  Individual opt-out alone won’t be enough to save the health of susceptible individuals.

Read the full text of the Opsommer bill by clicking here.

Link

February 16th, 2012 – Representative Tom McMillin (R) of Rochester introduced today, along with 8 co-sponsors, proposed smart meter opt-out legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives.  The bill, known as H.B. 5411, contains a whole series of prohibitions against the electric utility companies of the state with regard to what are termed “advanced meters” and directs the Michigan Public Services Commission (MPSC) to enforce these prohibitions.

The bill prohibits any such utility from (a) requiring a customer to accept an “advanced meter”, (b) from refusing to remove one if already installed, or (c) from “imposing any disincentive on a customer for not accepting the installation or use of an ‘advanced meter’.”

For those customers who do accept an “advanced meter”, the bill would prohibit the utility from collecting data from the meter more often than once per month “unless requested by the customer”, and would further prohibit the giving of “any meter use data from an advanced meter to any person other than the utility.”

The bill has been referred to the Energy and Technology Committee.  We are hopeful the Committee will, after due consideration, forward this bill to the full House for an up or down vote.  If the bill should survive all hurdles and become law, we think some powerful protections will have been put in place to protect the property rights and the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of Michigan homeowners.  We very much appreciate the effort Tom McMillin has put forward to get this bill drafted and to muster the support of so many of his colleagues to co-sponsor.

A provision we would very much like to have seen in this bill would be a “community opt-out” as well as an individual opt-out, at least for those communities where smart meters have not already been installed.  The issue is that an individual who opts out only gains partial protection from the possible electro magnetic effects upon his or her health.  He is still immersed in a sea of such radio radiation produced by all the smart meters of his immediate neighbors.  Only a community opt-out, or a statewide ban, would provide real protection against layering more and more radiation on homes that are already bombarded with radio and tv signals, cell phone tower radiation, and WiFi radiation from all the homes in the area.

Two other provisions we don’t see in the bill are a mandate that the MPSC conduct a proper investigation of the health effects of the meters, or a moratorium on further installs pending the results of such an investigation.  We know that the current investigation by MPSC has, despite the pleas of nine city governments, been designed to exclude health effects and to make no provision for halting or slowing ongoing installations.

The bill defines what “advanced meter” means.  We would like to have seen a definition that would encompass all the variations of ‘smart’ metering that a utility might install – so that the utility not be able to escape the requirements of this proposed law just by, for example, turning off the radio feature, while still tracking granular usage data to be uploaded by different means.  We are recommending that a definition be made that is more along the lines of that published by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Still this bill is a start – a big first step.  Our hats are off to Rep. McMillin and his eight Republican colleagues who co-sponsored.  They seem to have focused on the property rights and Fourth Amendment issues. We do not see smart meters as a partisan issue, however, and would hope that Democrats in the House might introduce their own proposal that would broaden the final legislation to include more focus on the health effects and possible remedies for that.

To read the actual proposed legislation, click here.