AN EXCELLENT BILL THAT NEEDS A TWEAK
by David Sheldon
February 25th, 2017 – Last Tuesday we filled the hearing room and much of the overflow room of the House Energy Committee. This was the first of two hearings for testimony on House Bill 4220, the proposed law that would guarantee meter choice to utility customers. The second meeting on the bill will take place March 7th at 9 am, again in the House Office Building, Room 517, 124 North Capitol Avenue, Lansing, at 9 am. We urge as many as possible to attend this hearing as well.
WATCH 90 MINUTE VIDEO OF THE MEETING HERE!
The meeting began with a very strong presentation by Chairman Glenn, the bill sponsor, as to why his proposed legislation is needed. Glenn stressed “this is not a technical bill” and “does not require Committee members to have technical knowledge” of the utility business. It is, he stated, a “philosophical bill” that only requires a simple recognition that people should have control of what is done on their property. He said it is “none of our business” why people don’t want the advanced meters, whether it be privacy, health or something else.
This was followed by a number of spirited presentations by advocates for the bill that covered the health, privacy and fire issues. Included were presentations by electrical engineer William Bathgate, by retired fire chief Duane Roddy and by former Rep Tom McMillin who had chaired the smart meter hearing two years ago. Many who had signed up to speak were unable to do so in the limited time and may get their chance at the March 7th continuation of hearings on this bill. As it is possible there will again not be time for all to speak, we recommend taking your written comments or exhibits to the hearing with 25 copies to hand out. If you are not able to attend the hearing you may submit your comments by email to the Committee Clerk, firstname.lastname@example.org
We are optimistic about what this bill will do. The bill respects property rights and freedom of choice for utility customers. If passed in its present form it will allow utility customers to choose whether or not to give up privacy in order to gain other touted benefits of the new technology. The bill, as written, will also allow every customer who had a smart meter installed before the effective date of this legislation, to have that meter removed and replaced with a traditional meter – all at no charge. That would cover nearly all of the 3 million plus smart meters already installed. Going forward, the $150 smart meter removal fee could only be charged to customers who agreed to take a smart meter and then changed their mind after it was installed. The bill also will eliminate ongoing monthly opt-out fees for all customers who are willing to report their own meter readings.
We must acknowledge the contribution of another smart meter leader who has pointed out, correctly, that a certain ambiguity in the present language of the bill could allow some utilities to claim that digital electronic meters they were installing long before smart meters are, in some sense, “traditional”, and thereby satisfy the requirements of the legislation. While this is a concern to many of us, our legislative process provides opportunities to remove these ambiguities. Some of us who will testify on March 7th will raise this issue but we hope none will forget to emphasize what is right with the bill and our appreciation for the efforts and risks legislators have taken to bring it to this point.
At this critical time, we need to focus on building momentum for a bill that resolves many of our issues. We have lived too long without a bill that will protect us. Let’s work hard together right now to get the bill passed.
Hearings on this bill will continue on March 7th at 9 am. Consumers Energy was expecting to testify at this hearing but time ran out so that they are now scheduled to be first up at the next hearing.
The Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission will be making an extended presentation to the Energy Committee on February 28th. There are several proposed laws before the Energy Committee now in which MPSC has an interest. Keep in mind that the reason for our present predicament is the deceptive conduct and miserable failure of her agency to protect the utility customers. She will try to defend her agency’s performance. She might include in her testimony the view of her agency on our proposed smart meter bill. It may be worthwhile for any of our movement who can do so to attend that hearing also and to sign up to make a short public comment expressing our frustration with how her agency has dealt with us.
Townsend parking ramp – at corner of Capitol and Allegan streets.
This one is the closest – 2 block walk to House Office Bldg, but sometimes this ramp is open to permit holders only.
North Capitol parking ramp, 316 North Capitol Ave
This one is 2 blocks north of House Office Bldg.
South Capitol parking ramp, 320 South Capitol Ave
This one is 4 blocks south of House Office Bldg.
On street (metered parking) – is available on a number of streets near House Office Bldg. But there is a 2 hour time limit and rate is $1.25/hour.