by David Sheldon
Revised November 14th, 2016
November 13th, 2016 – On November 10th the Michigan Senate debated Senate Energy Bills 437 and 438, a pair of bills that have been urged by Michigan’s major utilities and our Governor for nearly two years now. The Senate waited until this lame duck session to pass unpopular legislation that would impose new requirements for renewable energy, change approval procedures for new plants, generally raise utility rates, usher in time-of-use pricing, allow for “revenue decoupling” and limit the availability of alternative energy providers to serve the 10% of the electric market they now serve.
The bill is premised on Obama EPA regulations forcing closure of existing coal-fired generating plants and ordering states to re-organize their electric power grid systems (which President-elect Trump has promised to repeal). It would essentially replace a market-driven process for new power plant capacity and site decisions with a centralized state process. Revenue decoupling is a regulatory standard under which, as customers use less electricity in response to higher prices or other incentives, the utilities are guaranteed that their total revenues will not be hurt.*
Before this disastrous bill passed, Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, on November 10th introduced, on the floor of the Michigan Senate, his Amendment No. 4 to Senate Energy Bill 437. He sought to achieve by amendment something positive for Michigan energy customers. His floor speech outlined very effectively the case, based on homeowner property rights, that customers must be allowed a choice of meter type, in order to avoid having a device forced on them by the utilities. Property rights has always been implicit in the case we have been making these last 5 years for health rights and privacy rights, though we have not always stressed property rights as clearly as the Senator does here:
Unfortunately Colbeck’s amendment was defeated. This was done on a voice vote. The Senate that then went on to approve the two bills, 437 and 438, wanted by the utilities and our Governor. Senator Colbeck voted against passage of this energy legislation, as did quite a number of other Republican Senators. All but one Democratic Senator voted for the bills. An article discussing Sen Colbeck’s reasons for voting no on this bill can be found here. Check the voting of your Senator on SB 437 here, and on SB 438 here.
There will be an attempt made to introduce companion bills in the Michigan House – also in this lame duck session. Such legislation faces uncertain prospects. Please write your House rep and urge defeat of the energy package backed by the Governor.
We owe a vote of thanks also to Senator Colbeck for his letter to the Michigan Public Service Commission supporting meter choice and opposing some of the draconian shutoff rules being discussed there.
Although the Colbeck amendment failed this time, the fact that it was even raised on the Senate floor, and that we have House Bill 4916, are signs our issue is getting increased attention in Lansing. A new bill, to replace HB 4916, will have to be introduced in the House in the new legislative year. There are some indications the leadership of the House will likely be more favorable to us in the new year.
“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you,
then they fight you,then you win.”
*For an analysis of what the new energy bills will do see the Free Press article here: