by David Sheldon
February 1st, 2018 –t DTE customer Tom Mitchell had a motion hearing before an administrative judge at the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The hearing room was filled to capacity. Purpose of the hearing was not to hear evidence on the merits of Tom’s formal complaint against electric utility DTE, but to rule on whether Tom’s case could go forward, or be dismissed as both DTE and MPSC staff were requesting. Purpose was also to rule on two motions Tom had submitted, one to set the scope of the case and one to allow out-of-state witnesses to testify via Skype.
Tom had requested a formal hearing on his complaint that DTE had threatened him with shutoff for not agreeing to accept either the standard smart meter or the smart meter with radio turned off. Tom has a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation and has an affidavit from his personal physician that having an electronic meter on his home could harm his health and even possibly cause his death. Tom believes that, under this circumstance, DTE must provide accommodation by allowing him and all others with a similar documented health condition to keep the traditional analog meter.
Administrative judge Lauren Van Steel conducted the hearing, appeared to be a good listener and also asked some hardball questions of both the DTE attorney and the attorney representing MPSC staff. At the conclusion she took all three motions under advisement. She is expected to issue her decision sometime within the next week or two.
Tom had planned to have this writer assist in the presentation, but the judge insisted that since Tom was appearing without an attorney, that he must present his case without assistance. Tom did a fantastic job!
Incredibly, the attorney for MPSC staff argued that all possible health issues had already been addressed in the 2012 report by staff and that there could never be a legitimate reason to take another look at the opt-out policy from a health standpoint, despite there never having been an evidentiary hearing on the health issues. The judge did NOT appear to be buying this line.
If she decides to let Tom’s case proceed, a new date will be set for the evidentiary hearing. This would be the one where testimony would be taken from Tom’s personal physician, experts on the dirty electricity issue and from DTE’s witnesses.