Urgent Message to All Michigan Meter Choice People: The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) will be holding a public hearing next Thursday, September 22nd in Lansing. The purpose of the hearing is to allow for public comment on a new set of proposed rules for gas and electric utilities, to replace all the existing rules. The hearing is at 9 am, 7109 West Saginaw Street, Lansing. This is Case U-18120. The Commission will also accept written or emailed comments from the public up until 5 pm October 13th.
This is a legislative hearing the Commission is required by law to hold before it can put new rules into effect. Any member of the public may attend and will be given an opportunity to speak, probably limited to a few minutes for each person. A further step the Commission must follow is to submit the final version of its proposed rules to a joint House/Senate committee of the legislature for final approval. Once the new rules become law, they will regulate nearly every aspect of utility service to the public whether you are in DTE territory or Consumers territory or that of any other privately owned utility the Commission regulates.
Again this is a hearing about the rules for utility service. It is not a hearing about smart meters as such, but it does provide us an opportunity to comment on the current rules that govern smart meters, or to propose any new needed rule. If you speak at the hearing, to get your full time and best response from the Commission, it will be important to stay on point, be professional, respectful and address the issues at hand. The Commission regards its past decisions to allow smart meters and to require opt-out fees to be settled issues. That said, anyone may propose:
1) That a new rule should be included to specify that utilities deploying smart meters must provide an analog or mechanical alternative meter for those who have concerns about digital electronic meters. The point can be developed by briefly relating a personal experience or citing the many thousands of cases in Michigan where customers are not accepting the current opt-out meters, leading to confrontations between the utility and its customers and leading to shutoffs – even to people who are medically vulnerable. Such a point can be further bolstered by pointing out that there are 20 states now that do have such a rule or requirement for their utilities – most on a cost of service basis.
2) That the proposed new rule concerning shutoffs only addresses shutoffs for customers with unpaid bills, and needs to be broadened to provide similar due process or accommodation for those whose bills are paid but who have resisted the installation of a smart or electronic meter they believe will cause them immediate harm.
3) That there are other problems with some of the proposed new rules or with old rules the MPSC proposes to drop which should be retained.
Another focus of this hearing will be what new rule or modified rules are needed to protect “critical care customers”. “A critical care customer is one who requires home medical equipment or a life support system and would be at risk if an interruption of service prevented use of that equipment or system”. Existing rules allow such customers to register with the utility and be assured of a 21 day hold on any shutoff due to non payment of a bill. This hold can be extended twice for a total of 63 days hold. Many, however, were not informed of this option or experienced the run around when they tried to apply to DTE for this protection.
This announcement is specifically for any of you who have endured a shutoff or other mistreatment from DTE or Consumers Energy over a smart meter issue. If you were forced to take a smart or electronic meter to keep your power on, even after notifying the utility of your well founded concerns, this announcement is for you! If you padlocked your analog meter and had your power turned off without the required 10 day written notice, this announcement is for you! If someone in your home is medically vulnerable to a shutoff this is also for you! If you were denied an opportunity to register with the utility as a “critical care customer” this is for you!
We believe it is important that as many aggrieved customers as possible turnout for the hearing next week – whether you intend to speak or just swell the ranks of us monitoring the hearing. Those who notify us they plan to attend the hearing will be provided with a concise summary of the changes in the rules with suggestions as to which of these changes should be challenged. If you intend to talk it is vital you signup to do so on a sheet they provide just before the start of the meeting. Persons will probably be called in the order listed on this signup sheet and could be denied opportunity to speak if they did not signup. Again, when you do speak it will be important to be polite, respectful, and thereby reflect well on our entire analog choice movement.
We are already working with analog choice leaders around the state to mobilize people for this hearing. If you plan to go, please contact one of us with your phone number no later than Tuesday. We may provide assistance with car pooling or with a listing and explanation of the critical rules that could be mentioned when you speak. If you live in DTE territory please contact David Sheldon at (248) 629-7838. If you live in Consumers territory please contact Jeanine Deal (269) 979-3019 or John Kurczewski (231) 203-3559.
Your help is needed! A good showing at this hearing may help us ultimately persuade the legislators that a meter choice bill is needed.!
Utility Meter Choice 4 Michigan