by Vigilant Dave
August 24th, 2012 – The Michigan Public Service Commission recently opened up a new docket No. U-17053 for the announced purpose of hearing evidence and public comment on Detroit Edison’s proposal to charge fees for opting out of smart meters. I am seeing a flurry of activity by people who somehow feel they can make a difference by giving up their time to travel to Lansing to express their opinions in this matter.
The Detroit Edison proposal was that those opting out of smart meters would be charged $86 up front plus $15/month indefinitely – or until next year when fees might be still further increased. Also Detroit Edison has proposed that people opting out and paying these extortionate fees only be allowed a smart meter with the radio turned off. Nobody is to be allowed to keep or get back their analog meter. Most of us who have studied these matters consider the Detroit Edison proposal unacceptable. It is not acceptable to make people pay fees to avoid a known harm to their health or to make them pay fees to exercise their Fourth Amendment rights to privacy. To add insult to injury the alternative meter still invades privacy and still endangers health by putting dirty electricity on home wiring.
I would remind our readers that we are talking about a state regulatory agency that has already ignored over 400 passionate and, in many cases, very well written pleas that smart meters violate our rights and are unacceptable. We are talking also of an agency that has brazenly ignored the pleas of 24 city governments, most of whom called upon that agency to at least put a temporary halt on further smart meter installations until a proper investigation could be completed.
We are talking about an agency that refused to halt the installations and that on June 29th, without holding any hearings, issued a staff report saying that health effects are “negligible” despite mountains of evidence to the contrary. We are talking about an agency that never addressed the privacy threat at all. We are talking about an agency that concluded that it was appropriate to make people who have already paid to build the smart meter system pay again to get out of it – in direct contradiction to the conclusion reached by Michigan’s Attorney General and quite a number of our state legislators.
Now we are asked to believe that these hearings, beginning with one on September 10th, are being held so that the Commission can hear our views and hear and evaluate real evidence about the opt-out fee question. I think it is time someone called this agency for what it is. The agency has already decided that it is going to approve the Detroit Edison fee proposal – either exactly as written, or perhaps with some minor tweaking. Perhaps they will knock the monthly fees from $15/month down to $12/month. That way it will appear that they are working for the public.
What is the real purpose of these hearings under Docket U-17053? The purpose is precisely in order to create an illusion of due process, so that when the Commission ultimately rubber stamps the DTE proposal their decision will not be highly vulnerable to reversal by the Michigan Court of Appeals, as was their decision to allow smart meter costs to be charged to customers.
All that said, it may still be worthwhile for some of us to travel to Lansing and take part in this charade. The reason would not be based on any realistic hope that MPSC is going to do the right thing. The reason would be rather that if we are going to appeal the inevitable bad decision they will make, we need to get some evidence into the record.
The way to get evidence into the record is to register as an “intervener”, then call witnesses to the witness stand under oath, examine those witnesses, and cross-examine any witness that is called to support Detroit Edison. You do not have to be a lawyer to do this, but some courtroom experience is probably going to be necessary to be effective. To merely “enter an appearance” so you can express your opinion is probably going to be fruitless – unless all you want is a chance to vent. The MPSC is not interested in your opinion.
If you wish to be an intervener you need to register with MPSC by September 3rd. The Notice of Hearing specifies that “Any person wishing to intervene and become a party to the case shall electronically file a petition to intervene with this Commission by September 3, 2012. (Interested persons may elect to file using the traditional paper format.) The proof of service shall indicate service upon Detroit Edison’s attorney, Michael J. Solo, Jr., One Energy Plaza, Detroit, Michigan 48226.”
The other point that needs to be made is that when an appeals court sits in review of an MPSC decision it can only consider those kinds of issues that the MPSC itself had jurisdiction to hear. The MPSC has no jurisdiction to hear Constitutional issues; therefore an appeals court sitting in review of an MPSC decision would also have no jurisdiction to hear Constitutional issues.
Only a judicial branch court hearing the Constitutional issues as an original case, not an appeals case, would have the power to grant us meaningful relief from the violation of our rights. That is why I am organizing a lawsuit to be heard in a Michigan Circuit Court where we will raise Fourth Amendment and Takings Clause arguments. I need people to join with me in that effort. If you are willing to be a plaintiff, please contact me at (248) 604-7545.