Large Turnout for Michigan Utility Rules Hearing

By David Sheldon

September 24th, 2016 – Dramatic testimony was heard at a five hour-long hearing of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission on September 22nd. This was about the Commission’s completely revised rules for utility service, proposed under Case U-18120. Participation was amazing – both as to the numbers of people who participated and the quality of their comments. We estimate that there were about 60 protesters present of which some 35 took their turn to testify. Also present were an MPSC staff attorney and a few MPSC staffers. Presiding was an administrative law judge who listened very intently to everything that was said. Though the commissioners were not present, the judge assured us that the commissioners will be reading the transcript.

Everyone who spoke did so with courtesy and stayed on point, relating their personal views or experiences to one or more rules that needed changing or needed to be added. At the same time the vast majority of those who spoke clearly stated that the Commission had not, in their view, been doing its job of protecting the public from bullying utility companies. Many made the point that the Commission has a responsibility under the law to assure safe and adequate utility service to all customers, not just to the majority who are currently not objecting to smart meters. John Tatar made this point very well when he reminded us all that we are living under a republic and not a democracy, so that the rights of all must be taken into account.

The areas of greatest concern were health, privacy and fires. It was brought out that the majority of published peer reviewed research by scientists independent of the industry was to the effect that the type of radiation given off by smart meters is immediately injurious to a small percentage of the public and likely to cause cancer or neurological illnesses over a period of years for nearly all utility customers.

The three rules of greatest concern to participants were (1) Rule 37(1)(a) which outrageously allows a utility to declare any situation “hazardous” at their sole discretion, and to immediately shut off service with no notice and apparently no recourse, (2) Rule 37(1)(i) which allows a utility to shutoff power with suitable notice “where the customer has refused to arrange access … for .. replacement of equipment …” and (3) the lack of any rule requiring the utility to offer an analog opt-out choice. Many pointed out that the ‘hazardous’ designation was being misused by DTE to shutoff customers without notice who had refused a smart meter and padlocked their meter enclosure.

Much of the testimony was highly emotional, detailing the suffering many have endured at the hands of DTE or Consumers Energy. Particularly poignant was that of Jaime Chimner of Cheboygan who had lost the ability to walk because of a digital electronic meter installed by Consumers Energy. Replacing that digital meter with an analog meter allowed her to walk again! But Consumers Energy would not allow her to have the kind of meter that would allow her to walk! They were not interested in letters she presented from two doctors. They said “either let us reinstall the digital meter or we will turn your power off”. This obviously was not an option, so the next day power was turned off and the Chimners endured a winter with no electricity and minimal heat. They will soon be enduring another such winter with no long term remedy in sight!

Another spoke of an elderly lady in the Muskegon area whose uninsured house burned to the ground from a fire the local fire department had identified as caused by a smart meter! The burned out meter that caused this fire was exhibited. Quite a number of others spoke of having been forced to survive on generators for a year or more, or endure a winter without heat, because DTE cutoff of their service on that ‘hazardous’ pretext.

Of the 35 who spoke, only one, representing the Michigan Environmental Council, was in favor of smart meters. Her comments were effectively countered by an engineer from the Muskegon area, who made the point that energy conservation could be accomplished far more effectively by lighter colored roofs on homes and better insulation.

There is still ample opportunity to submit comments on this case, whether you participated in the hearing or not. The Commission will allow public comments and exhibits to be posted to Case U-18120 until 5 pm on October 13th. After that date the Commission will make its decision whether to proceed with these rules or to modify them in response to public objections.

With any new comments that are submitted by writing, it would be wise to refer back to any of the MPSC rules, such as Rule 37(1)(a), Rule 37(1)(i) discussed above, or to Rule 30 on medical emergencies, or Rule 38 with special provisions for senior citizens. These rules (30 and 38) currently do not allow for medical emergencies for senior citizens that want an analog meter.  We will have to make that point.  We must show the inadequacy of the proposed rules.  If folks want to comment about fire safety, privacy or liberty, please try to find a rule to tie the comment to. 

As Richard Meltzer reminds us, it would be good to mention, in any health-related comments specific BCBS codes or other medical insurance codes for electrosensitivity, as well as any references to the United States Access Board and The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).  These documents mention accommodation for ElectroSensitivity based on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  http://www.access-board.gov/     http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/   Referencing the National Toxicology Program Study on Cancer, released in May would also be very good.  http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/results/areas/cellphones/

If we can back up our comments with governmental or industry acknowledgement/accommodation of electrosensitivity and cancer risk, then they cease to be just our opinions.

This commission has not shown itself to be at all conscientious about protecting the public. The Governor, who is pushing hard for smart grid, appointed them. The Commission also includes one who was recently the lobbyist for Consumers Energy, a clear conflict of interest. So nobody should naively believe this Commission is highly likely to do the right thing. If they were smart they would get out in front of all this and introduce some good changes to the rules. That might benefit them by reducing the chance we have to persuade the legislature to enact reform. But they are far more likely to do what they have always done – the bidding of the utilities, Governor Snyder and other powerful moneyed lobbyists.

You might ask, with such long odds, why did we bother to come to this hearing. The short answer is that if we did not the utilities and MPSC staffers would be telling legislators that they gave us a chance to voice our objections and hardly anyone showed up. That would hurt our chances of getting the legislature to pass HB 4916, the meter choice bill. It might also hurt our chances in any court cases, particularly since there is a doctrine of exhausting administrative remedies before coming to court. But as matters now stand, legislators will be hearing through the grapevine what a high level of participation we showed.

If the Commission decides to proceed with the rules in their present form, they will go next to a joint committee of the legislature which will have the power to stop the new rules, pending possible further action by the full legislature. This committee is called the “Joint Committee on Administrative Rules” or JCAR for short. Two of the cosponsors of our proposed meter choice bill, HB 4916, sit on that committee. Stay tuned for further details as they develop.

******************************************************

The original call to attend this hearing, by Utility Meter Choice 4 Michigan, together with many comments on that, may be viewed here:

From the Commission Order opening this case: “Written and electronic comments may be filed with the Commission and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 13, 2016. Written comments should be sent to the: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, Michigan 48909. Electronic comments may be e-mailed to mpscedockets@michigan.gov. If you require assistance, contact Commission staff at (517) 284-8090 or by e-mail at mpscedockets@michigan.gov. All information submitted to the Commission in this matter will become public information available on the Commission’s website and subject to disclosure. All comments should reference Case No. U-18120. Please do not include information you wish to remain private.”

Those wishing to review all the new proposed rules for comments will find them all here: http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/18120/0001.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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11 thoughts on “Large Turnout for Michigan Utility Rules Hearing

  1. Here is one of my replies to the MPSC on this Subject of Power shut off for Dangerous and Hazardous conditions.

    Proposed Rule 460.137

    Date 10/10/2016 (MINOR REVISIONS MADE 10/11/2016)

    Case No. U-18120
    Proposed Rule 460.137 — 37(1)(a) & 37(1)(i)
    Reference Item:

    A utility may shut off or deny service to a customer “without notice, if a condition on the customer’s premises is determined by the utility or a governmental agency to be hazardous.”

    I hold an electrical engineering and mechanical engineering degree and previously was employed through late 2015 for 8 years for Emerson Electric. While at Emerson Electric I was the Senior Program Manager for Power Distribution Systems in charge of an RF and IP based digitally controlled high power AC power switching system product line in use in over 100 countries and was directly responsible for product certifications such as UL, CE and many other countries electrical certification bodies. I am very familiar with the electrical and electronic design of the AMI meters in use because I was responsible for very similar products with over 1 Million units installed across the world.

    I have just reviewed the transcripts of the hearing held in Lansing on this subject and came to realize there were many comments regarding the issues identified from the effects of both the RF emitting AMI meter and the non RF emitting AMI Opt-Out Meter. I have personally tested the RF emissions from the AMI meter and measured that the meter does not send data just a few times a day as the utilities publish. It actually sends an RF pulse about every 4-5 seconds constantly and a longer duration RF emission after midnight running about 3-5 minutes. There is no need for the AMI meter to send a pulse every 4-5 seconds all day just to synchronize and time stamps the clock inside the meter, the meter only needs to send data once a day for 3-5 minutes. All these pulse transmissions the AMI meter is doing is a complete waste of energy and because it is a short but frequently pulsing signal that is not needed to measure power consumption, it is creating needless health effects and is impacting consumers as evidenced in the testimony. Some consumers have been affected to the point of near death experiences. The Mesh Network design is saturating the environment with RF transmissions mostly for the purpose of the network synchronization not the consumption measurement of power. I could not think of a worse network design for a power measurement device.

    After reading the transcripts of the hearing I noticed quite a few comments from people affected to a terrible effect by the RF based AMI meter, and interestingly also the RF turned off Opt-Out Meter. It begs the question why do people also seem affected by the Opt-Out meter? Well I went out and purchased the ITRON Open Way meter identical to the meter being deployed by DTE. I took the unit apart to examine the circuit design of the three boards inside the meter. Generally the boards seem well made with two important elements missing.

    The switching circuit is lacking an effective “Common Mode” filter and the circuit boards are lacking a direct local connection to a Zero voltage potential ground at the meter to sink(ground) the current and voltage oscillations of the circuit boards.

    Ground References:

    Depending on the soil conditions and either a solid or not solid low impedance connection point or surface, the ground plane reference of the circuit boards may be floating over a Zero voltage potential condition. This will create Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI). The use of no direct ground reference as in use today is a poor practice with the AMI meter and leads to a floating ground potential that could cause strong voltage and current ground potentials varying from zero to a worse case 240 volts (due to a direct short). If there was a direct short of the feed wire because of a voltage surge on the input power from a lighting strike at the pole or where the two feed lines cross each other from a downed tree limb I would fully expect the circuit boards to likely explode or melt.

    Common Mode EMI:

    A “Common Mode” filter attenuates high frequency currents. This filter is not present in the current circuit design and if it was there the switching circuit which converts 240 Volts AC to 5-10 volts DC would be prevented from sending EMI oscillations back onto the 240 Volt AC wires entering the home.

    I am very familiar with the design elements of a switched mode power supply because I had to include “Common Mode” filters into the products I was responsible for while at Emerson Electric to minimize the Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) coming from the switching integrated circuit back onto the feeding AC circuit and the output AC circuit. A clean 50 or 60 Hz is needed, the input AC and AC output to be void of any oscillation introduced by the switching circuit. I would not have been able to sell the same ITRON switched mode circuit design with the products I managed. I would have been fired for allowing such a condition.

    If DTE (or any Utility) was to demand of ITRON, their supplier, to provide a “Common Mode” filtering circuit and tested this design for elimination of EMI and of stray capacitance present in the current design, I believe the troubles with people becoming ill from the Opt-Out AMI meter could be significantly mitigated. This should not be ignored or taken lightly. There could be a solution to help the people affected by the high frequency oscillations created by the switched power supply.

    In short lacking a redesign of the AMI meter switched mode power supply, the solution for people affected by the AMI meter program is very simple and costs nothing. Allow those affected residents and businesses to retain an Analog meter which is readily available and meets all ANSI and other applicable standards.

    Summary:

    The MPSC has been asked to grant the Utilities the ability to turn off power to people and businesses without notice for “Dangerous or Hazardous” conditions. Based on my professional examination of the metering technology deployed with AMI meters, the meters themselves are “Dangerous or Hazardous” due to their EMI and RF emissions. There has been a disregard for the health affects of these AMI meters on the general population by the utilities. So by there own lack of definition of “Dangerous or Hazardous” all AMI meters deployed at present will be subject to shut off of service due to “Dangerous or Hazardous” conditions. This may be silly logic on my part but the logic of the proposed rule is equally silly logic and the rule change request should be denied due to lack of definition of what is “Dangerous or Hazardous”.

    In addition I think the MPSC should have a more active role in the technology decisions made by the utilities themselves. In the case of AMI meters the MPSC overlooked this responsibility to assure the utility monopolies are providing a safe metering technology to the consumer and businesses. Based on the affects on the population with people reporting near death experiences and crippling of their bodies with the AMI meters, this decision should be revisited by the MPSC in unison with the various groups that have reported serious issues with this technology. Otherwise the affected population at some time in the future will hold the MPSC accountable in a class action law suit which would have to be defended by the State of Michigan using scarce tax dollars for legal expenses. In the Flint Water Crisis the State of Michigan failed to provide proper governance and oversight of the decisions in Flint costing the State of Michigan many millions of dollars and it far from settled yet.

    Does the MPSC not see the similarities of Flint here with the AMI technology that has serious issues that can be simply solved? I do not want my tax dollars spent on defending the MPSC from a class action lawsuit. This requested rule set is deceptive and it is also obvious that the utilities want this rule provision to force every person to comply with whatever they want and bypass the MPSC to do it. This will permit the Utilities to use Social Media posts and other forms of protest criticizing them as a condition that is “Dangerous and Hazardous” and turn off power to shut people up and use intimidation to shutoff their power without notice to deny them their first amendment rights. They are going to use this tactic to force every home and business to have an AMI meter or else they will shut off their power without notice, even though there is no federal or state law that specifically calls for an AMI meter. This AMI technology is specified in federal law as a voluntary option for consumers. Forcing 100% compliance to AMI metering is not the solution; this will only lead to big legal troubles for the MPSC as a whole and direct legal liability to all individual MPSC members. Based on the testimony already made regarding AMI meter health issues the MPSC needs to step up and fulfill its charter to the residents of Michigan to provide SAFE and reliable power and not leave this to the sole discretion of the utilities. The current AMI meters are not safe, as evidenced by the dramatic testimony of residents that are suffering terribly.

    If the MPSC approves these rule changes, then the MPSC should disband because your role in governance is of no value, merit or benefit to the citizens of the State of Michigan. You would have abrogated your governance role to the utilities to do as they see fit for their own exclusive benefit and no one else.

    Sincerely,
    William S. Bathgate
    10909 Monticello Road
    Pinckney, MI 48169
    256-570-5434

    bill.bathgate@yahoo.com

    • William, that is one of the best written pieces on this issue that I have seen. I certainly hope you either already submitted it to the MPSC or plan on doing so before the October 13, 2016, 5:00pm deadline. Do a copy and paste to mpscedockets@michigan.gov and make sure to reference Case U-18120. With your permission, I would like to share with those of us that have been fighting this for a long time. Thank you very much for your extensive knowledge about this.

      John Kurczewski
      5323 S Straits Hwy, Apt 20
      Indian River, Mi., 49749
      alpenaunclejohn@yahoo.com

      • You can share my note can I can send you a error corrected copy that I previously sent to you. After reading this more closely I made a few typos which I corrected when I sent this to the MPSC.
        Bill

    • Sorry, I just scanned back to the top and saw that you already submitted this to the MPSC. I was just so taken by your letter that overlooked the top part.
      John

  2. I looked up the Michigan Environmental Council that testified at this hearing after reading this summary. In general the MEC is doing good work on behalf of the citizens of the State of Michigan. However why the MEC would be in support of granting dictatorial powers to a utility via these rules is puzzling. Given these new rules the Utility can rule anything as a “Hazard” including your Face Book posts, articles to the editor of a local paper or even posting on this web site.

    That was until I went to their web site and read their position on “Sustainable Development”, sustainable development is really the UN’s Agenda 21. Agenda 21 is focused on the deployment of the Smart Grid and Smart Meters.Now I know why they testified in favor of these rules, it would assure a 100% compliance to the deployment of Smart Meters by the use of force. Sustainable development dictates how you will live in the future, private land ownership is not permitted. Everyone would be forced from the rural areas to mega cities. This is communism at its core. You would be rationed your permitted power use, transportation methods, food use, living space and the list goes on and on. This is what some call the agenda of the Globalists in the world, and the main reason the UK voted for the BREXIT.

  3. How does one add exhibits to the case Dave? My disabled son had a lock on his analog. While on his oxygen machine, his service was cut off (no knock on door to unlock meter, and not due to nonpayment) he quit breathing. Fortunately he was not sleeping. DTE drove out to his house the following day (after several very calls were placed to them) between 2-3p and personally placed a letter in his door that service would be shut off because the lock he had on his analog meter was hazardous. However, when DTE cut his lock off (and cut his service at pole) they placed their own lock on it. How can his lock be hazardous and theirs not? Yes, I have pictures of everything. Names, dates, times etc. I wanted to come to meeting to testify, but had a doctors appointment, and my son was unable to. He had a friend who it happened to on the same day, in the same city who had just come home from the hospital the day before with his 2 day old baby. This out of state contracted company hired by DTE gets paid to cut the service and gets paid to turn it back on. And the consumer pays for it. In my sons case, a knock on the door could have resolved the issue, but then they wouldn’t have gotten paid to turn it back on. I am very livid over this. Although I did get to enjoy my son, daughter-in-law, and grandson for three days because they stayed with me during this time. But they took away my grandsons leaving for his first day of kindergarten from his own home. Those memories cant be replaced. DTE is a heartless, greedy organization.

    • Deborah, You can send your story to the Michigan Public Service Commission by email or snail mail, and attach any exhibits you want to that. I WOULD HIGHLY RECOMMEND YOU ALSO SEND YOUR STORY TO LOCAL NEWS MEDIA – PARTICULARLY CHANNEL 7 TV WHICH HAS DONE STORIES ON SMART METER ATROCITIES IN THE PAST. ALSO WRITE TO YOUR ELECTED REPRESENTATIVE IN THE STATE LEGISLATURE.

      For submissions to the Public Service Commission, here is the information you need, straight off MPSC website:

      “Written and electronic comments may be filed with the Commission and must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on October 13, 2016. Written comments should be sent to the: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, Michigan 48909. Electronic comments may be e-mailed to
      mpscedockets@michigan.gov. If you require assistance, contact Commission staff at (517) 284-8090 or by e-mail at mpscedockets@michigan.gov. All information submitted to the Commission in this matter will become public information available on the Commission’s website and subject to disclosure. All comments should reference Case No. U-18120. Please do not include information you wish to remain private.”

  4. I recognized what great work you have all done in the cause of the public health concerns and smart meters. I applaud all of you for your determination and grit!

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