Smart Meters – Can Michigan Say ‘NO’?

(Article updated January 30th, 2015)

The short answer is “YES, WE CAN SAY NO!” 

First we must clarify what it means to say ‘NO’ in the wake of the rather confusing ‘opt-out’ policies our public service commission approved last summer for Michigan’s two largest utilities. Three years ago, both utilities had made repeated public announcements that there would be no opt-outs. Every home and every business would have a smart meter.Two years ago, both utilities were starting to talk about a possible opt-out policy, but neither utility had an opt-out plan in place. One year ago, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved opt-out tariffs for both utilities.

What we have now are “opt-out” plans that are really not opt-out plans at all. Most of us who have seriously studied this issue have concluded that it makes no sense to ‘sign up’ for the opt-out plan as it is presently constituted. To do so would constitute consent for the installation of a smart meter (the opt-out meter is still a smart meter, just one with the radio-frequency turned off) that will still cause you health problems and violate your privacy. For details on what the “opt-out” meter really is and why you should NOT “opt-out” see page on our site titled “To Opt Out or NOT to Opt Out”.

What saying ‘NO’ to smart meters really means today is letting the utility know, by certified letter, by signage on your meter and by speaking to the installer when the opportunity presents – that you do not consent to any type of smart meter – whether the radio transmitter is on or off. Saying ‘NO’ in any effective way also involves protecting your existing analog meter by placing some form of lock or guard on the meter enclosure.

DTE Energy and Consumers Energy will tell you that the meter is their property and they can do what they want with it. But your home is your property and you do have the right to forbid the installation of a device on  your own property which is not just a meter, but a surveillance device and a source of electromagnetic radiation which may harm the residents of the home.  You have the moral right, and we believe that if and when this issue is finally tested in the courts, the courts will determine that you have the legal right to refuse – and continue to receive electrical power from the regulated monopoly.  There is no federal or state mandate that customers must accept these devices.  Moreover, the Michigan legislature has defined what is meant by the word “meter” and ‘smart meters’ do not fit the legal definition of ‘meter’. The privately owned utilities ultimately have no legal position to back up their arbitrary policies.

Some of you may have heard of an incident in Naperville, Illinois where police were brought in to enforce a smart meter installation.  The thing to keep in mind is that the electric utility there is actually owned by the city and the city passed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to interfere with their installers.  No such law exists in Michigan at the state level that would enable a privately owned utility to obtain the assistance of police for their installs. And most local governments in southeastern Michigan have weighed in against smart meters.

DTE will tell you that you must choose between a fully functional smart meter and a smart meter with one of its radio-transmitters disabled. We find ourselves being bullied in this way because the Michigan Public Service Commission has not done the job of protecting the public from the arbitrary actions of a (supposedly) regulated monopoly provider of electric power.  See page on this site titled “The Attitude of the Michigan Public Service Commission” for discussion of MPSC stands on these matters. Consumers Energy has exactly the same policy offering the same forced choice, but they are being more lenient about enforcing it – for now.

The time to put a sign next to your meter and to lock your meter enclosure is NOW! Many people who planned to do this found one day to their surprise that the smart meter had already been installed.Those who would like some help in how to lock their meter enclosure will find the article “How to Keep a Smart Meter Off Your Property” very helpful.

The time to send a certified letter to the utility is when you have information that the utility will have crews in your neighborhood, when you have found it necessary to ask an installer to leave your property or when you are responding to a letter asking if you plan to opt-out. To send such a letter under other circumstances may simply invite them to start charging you opt-out fees sooner rather than later.

Those who would like a bit of help writing such a letter to a utility will find sample letters on this site on the page titled “Smart Meter Form Letters” and also on a similar page on “Smart Meter Education Network”.

Utility installers typically will not ring your doorbell unless they find a locked gate or a locked meter enclosure. If they do contact you the best response is “I do not consent to a smart meter, whether radio on or radio off. Put me down as a refusal”. Avoid using the words “opt-out”. Usually this is enough for them to leave and go on to their next house. If an installer is persistent you may need to order him to leave your property and point out that he will be trespassing if he remains. We know of no cases where this was not sufficient to cause an installer to leave.

Those who have been firm in their refusals still have their analog meters and have not experienced any actual retaliation by the utilities. The Smart Meter Education Network has a great deal of information on its website about how people have stood up to the utility.

SMART METER ALREADY INSTALLED: Some of you had the misfortune to have a smart meter installed before you even knew what a smart meter was. Many families in this situation have experienced serious health problems as a result of the smart meter or opt-out meter on their home and have pleaded with the utility to remove the meter—to no avail. For these families saying ‘NO’ ultimately meant that they had to remove the smart meter or opt-out meter themselves, replacing it with a properly calibrated analog meter that can be purchased on the internet for about $20. Details and a video about this approach can be found at www.freedomtaker.com. If you choose this option be sure to have it done by a qualified person.

Utility customers who change their own meters will receive unpleasant letters and/or phone calls from the utility. The utility will attempt to bully the customer into allowing them to come back on the property and re-install a smart meter. The number of DTE customers who have themselves removed a smart meter and re-installed an analog meter now numbers into the hundreds.

DTE has been known to huff and puff and threaten some customers who changed their own meter with electricity shut-off. From the hundreds who have done so we know of no more than 10 cases where such a threat has been carried out.  We think DTE is limiting this rough tactic to only a few families, carefully selecting only families not likely to fight back in court for this treatment.

We  need a good test case to take to court.   Recently we saw an example of what can happen when a bad test case goes into a court. (See our article about the McNinch case elsewhere on this site) We are confident that we can win this battle in the legal system if we can ever get a case to court based on valid legal concepts. But until DTE actually turns off power to a family that will fight based on sound legal principles, we have to bide our time.

Even if it were legally permissible for DTE to shut-off power over this issue, they may not do so, according to MPSC regulations, without providing the customer with at least 10 days’ written notice. If during the 10-day notice period the customer files a complaint with the MPSC, the utility is not permitted to proceed with the disconnect until the complaint has been decided. If MPSC rules in favor of DTE the customer would have the option at this point of permitting re-installation of a smart meter and DTE would then, pursuant to regulations, have to restore power within 48 hours. If, on the other hand, while the MPSC is reviewing the complaint, a court case against DTE were filed, the utility might well be barred from disconnection by a temporary injunction, for the duration of the case.

The utility may claim that your electric usage is not being properly measured by the analog meter you installed. Or they may claim that your meter somehow is causing a safety risk to you or to their meter readers. The best response to such claims is simply to invite the utility to come back on your property to re-install an analog meter of their own such as they removed in the first place. That they have never done this reveals the sham nature of their two most common claims.

Bottom line: Most familys that changed their own meter still have the analog meters they installed and most have had their electric power continued without incident.

As we have said above, the utility is attempting to install on your home a device that does not meet the definition of a meter. We believe the customer is on firm moral and legal ground to have a qualified person remove a smart device and to refuse permission for the utility to come back on the property for the purpose of reinstalling such a ‘meter’ and, again, that when this issue is finally tested in the courts under a valid legal theory, it will be determined that the customer has the legal right to proceed in this manner – and continue to receive electrical power from the regulated monopoly. The scenario, however strange it might seem to some, is a problem of the utility’s own making.

For those who would like to learn still more about replacing your own meter, and perhaps participate in “Meter Removal Day” please see the excellent information at Smart Meter Education Network.

 

 

 

 

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14 thoughts on “Smart Meters – Can Michigan Say ‘NO’?

  1. Two years ago DTE energy sent me a letter stating they were converting meters in my area (Livonia) to smart meters. After many attempts to avoid an installation, having supervisors from DTE call to yell at me and contacting the attorney general I thought we were safe. As of April 1, 2016 DTE sent me another letter stating they would be in our area to install opt out meters. The installer came to the door and had my gate locked. I did not answer as I was on the phone with DTE. I was transfered from person to person for over an hour. Finally getting someone to tell me a supervisor from the smart meter department will call me about my “concerns” within 2 days. Every person I talked to said I have no choice. I have major medical issues that are effected by these meters. So much so to the point wear I can no longer go to family events in home that have a smart meter. I called and left a message with the energy commission but they were not there. Can they legally come in and put this on my house?Do I send them letters as shown above? Can anyone help me please?

    • Rosemary,

      What DTE is doing to people is, of course, outrageous. They are trampling all over their customers and they are doing this with pretty much the full backing of government – even though there is no law mandating the smart meters and no lawfully enacted regulation of the Public Service Commission. My only suggestion to you right now is, if you still have your analog meter, protect it for as long as you can. A lock on your analog meter is appropriate. At some point you may get an ultimatum forcing you to allow a smart installation on pain of losing your electric service otherwise. But don’t give in to them until you have to.

  2. I live in Lapeer County, and DTE is starting to install here soon or is already installing the smart meters. I have not yet received a letter, but my friend who lives two miles away received a letter about two weeks ago. I have printed out some flyers to place on public bulletin boards and hand out, but most people (including my friend) have said that they have more important things to worry about than what kind of meter is on their home. I say, what is more important than your health and privacy? Would a request to the local paper to do an article on smart meters be helpful? Thanks to all who are trying to make a difference.

    • marilyn – it can’t hurt to make such a request to your local paper and something might come of it. You might point out to your paper that there is legislation pending on this in Lansing, HB 4916. Also point out that there was a hearing on smart meters before the House Oversight Committee in December 2014, attended by some 200 people, and that some 60 people testified at that hearing.

  3. DTE is an evil outfit. I do not trust them since they screwed me over in 2004 when they ripped up my property to place an underground line. DTE destroyed stuff and never fixed it. DTE can shove it.

  4. My parents live outside of Ann Arbor, MI and have been fighting DTE over the installation of a smart meter and then an opt-out meter for months. Due to my mom’s deteriorating health, and no action by DTE, they bought an analog and had it installed and returned the smart meters to DTE. They had the analog for about a month, but DTE just came this morning (June 10, 2014) and disconnected their power. I can assure you that DTE did not care that my Dad is 82 and my mother 79 and now they have to ‘camp out’ as my Dad says. We are trying to get them to get solar and/or wind as well as a natural gas generator for the mean time. I am surprised that DTE did this as other testimonials I have read said that they just threaten! My father called the MPSC yesterday, but apparently it is too late. I am proud they took a stand, but now I may have to help them leave the home the built 46 years ago and raised 4 kids in. Fighting a court battle is not an option they want to take at this point . . .

    • I am sorry that DTE chose to make an example of your aging parents. This incident shows just how heartless they are. I think you would be doing all the rest of our movement a great favor if you would put this comment in the form of a letter and send it to Aric Nesbitt, Chairman of the House Energy and Technology Committee, State House of Representatives in Lansing. If you do, please copy Rep Tom McMillin who has introduced legislation, now pending in Mr. Nesbitt’s committee, that, if passed, would prevent tragedies like this. It would be well to mention any specific health issues that were aggravated by the opt-out meter, which led to their taking the opt-out meter off their home. You might also create an identical letter and send to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, asking in that letter if there aren’t some state laws that he could be enforcing to prevent situations like this. You might well ask him, for example, why his office is not enforcing Michigan’s felony statute against installing a surveillance device on a private home without the owner’s knowledge and consent.

      • Thank you for your input. I will talk to my folks and proceed with their permission. I know that they have already written many letters to various officials, but now that DTE has taken this step, I am feeling driven to get involved myself.

  5. How or where can I get or purchase a sign that says “NO SMART METER”? I really don’t want a smart meter.

  6. An excellent account of the problems you are having in Michigan, that covers so many parameters to show the wicked, cunning and deceit constantly used by these Electric Power Companies in Michigan America.

    We here in Victoria Australia have similar problems to those in Michigan who have not padlocked their electric meter boxes and put up their Legal Anti Trespass Signs. Over 250 thousand of us here in Victoria have padlocked our Electric meter boxes and erected our Commonwealth of Australia $167,000 Anti-Trespass Signs which have stopped us having our had the Safe and Passive Electric Analog Meters from being stolen.

    Those customers here in Victoria who have not taken these precautions have all had their Analog Safe and Passive Electric Meters stolen and whilst they were away shopping for up to an hour or away from home for any other reason. The shock and horror to these same customers who have returned home then found the POISONOUS Type 2B Carcinogen Causing and not-so Smart-Meter/s forced on them sitting in their electric meter box/s is one of great anger and rage.

    Many people who have changed the forced Smart Meter/s over to the same type of Passive Analog Electric Meter they formerly had, even when using a properly qualified and registered Victorian ‘A’ Grade electrician have had their power cut off by any one of the five (5) spiteful overseas owned Electricity companies of Powercor or Citypower or Jemena or SP AusNet or United Energy, two of which are owned by China and the other three by Singapore.

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