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by David Sheldon

March 23rd, 2018 – Setback for Tom Mitchell’s Case. Tom had submitted a formal appeal concerning DTE Electric’s threat to terminate his electric service over his smart meter refusal. His refusal was based on medical evidence that, because of a pre-existing heart condition, the installation of a smart meter could trigger a heart attack. In support of his claim Tom had submitted an affidavit from his personal physician and an affidavit from electrical engineer Bill Bathgate.

Many of you attended the motion hearing on February 1st at the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), where Administrative Judge Lauren Van Steel heard legal arguments as to whether Tom’s case should be heard at all. The attorney for DTE Electric and the attorney for MPSC staff both argued for summary dismissal of Tom’s case putting forth mostly very specious arguments which the judge found not persuasive. Tom held his own very well at that hearing against preposterous arguments from the other parties. Administrative judge Lauren VanSteel was very fair in the way she conducted that hearing and fired hardball questions at the attorneys for DTE and staff, and gave Tom ample opportunity to make his points.

We have waited six weeks for a decision from the judge. The judge has just issued her “Proposal for Decision” (PFD).  In this 27 page document she addresses all the arguments very carefully, but ultimately concludes that a ruling of the Michigan Court of Appeals must control this case. That ruling, on DTE’s opt-out plan in 2013, stated that the type of metering equipment used by a utility is a “management prerogative”, and that the MPSC has no jurisdiction to rule on what meters they can use. That court further concluded, therefore, that MPSC had no obligation to investigate any complaints about the meter, whether based on health claims, privacy or anything else. Judge Van Steel concludes her PFD by asserting that prior ruling of the Court of Appeals makes it necessary for her to recommend the summary dismissal of Tom’s case.

This then goes to the three member Commission appointed by the Governor for final decision. It is likely they will adopt the judge’s PFD as their final decision. It is hard to see how they could do otherwise, given that prior ruling by the appeals court.

This, then, is decision time for Tom’s case. What we need to do is get Tom’s case in front of that appeals court. We would be asking them to reverse the earlier ruling where, we believe, they incorrectly concluded that meter choice was purely a management decision. That ruling cannot be allowed to stand. It cannot be purely a management decision when the meter is located on a customer’s property, not the utility’s property, and where there are far reaching impacts on the customer’s health, privacy and safety from whatever meter choice a utility makes. The MPSC is charged by law with the responsibility to assure delivery of safe electric service. They cannot perform that function where a high court tells them they have no jurisdiction. The prior decision of the Court of Appeals virtually guarantees to a utility the right to deliver unsafe service!

The question now is the best route to follow to get Tom’s case before the Court of Appeals. One way is by direct appeal of the decision the Commission will make on this case. The other way is to start a suit in Macomb Circuit Court seeking a court order to block the installation of a smart meter on grounds that would amount to a deliberate infliction of a harm on a utility customer. And on the grounds the MPSC had already waived its jurisdiction by refusing to hear the case. A circuit judge might well summarily dismiss for the same reason the administrative judge recommended dismissal. But then that ruling could be appealed to the Court of Appeals. There would be advantages in reaching the COA by this route, since that court would have much broader discretion this way then they would on an appeal from an MPSC decision. But this way also would involve higher legal expenses.

Many of you have given generously to help Tom fund his case. Somewhat over $2,000 has been raised so far. But we need to ask all of you who care about the future of smart meter law in Michigan to dig even deeper to provide Tom with more financial support.

We ask that all checks be made out to Tom Mitchell and mailed to Jeanine Deal who will be maintaining records of all contributions.

Those who would like to read the judge’s entire 27 page decision will find it here: https://michiganstopsmartmeters.files.wordpress.com/2018/03/proposal-for-decision-mitchell-case-032318.pdf

 

 

 

 

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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.

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May 29th, 2017 – Lloyd Burrell’s Electric Sense newsletter has many articles that will be of interest to our readers.

Nine Tips to Cut Down on Exposure  to Computer Radiation: All computers emit radiation or electromagnetic fields (EMFs) on many different frequencies. These EMFs can be extremely harmful to your health. Cancer and other serious diseases have been linked to these exposures – studies indicate pregnant women and small children are particularly vulnerable.  Whether you are electrosensitive or just eager to take protective measures to protect you and your family here are my (started off as 9 tips but has now grown) computer radiation protection tips.  More

Cordless Phones Even More Dangerous than Cell Phones: If you thought you could solve the problem of cell phone radiation by switching back to your landline phone and your landline is a cordless phone, think again. Studies (1) show that cordless phones emit radiation just the same as cell phones. In some cases cordless phones are more dangerous than cell phones. Most cordless phones use DECT (Digital European Cordless Telephone) technology. The handset and the base of the phone, emit pulsed microwave radiation. In this article I explain what you can do to minimize your exposure to these harmful EMFs. More

 

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February 4th, 2017 – NEWS 10 (WILX) is a tv station serving Lansing and Jackson. Their reporter, Clayton Cummins, just posted yesterday a story headlined as “Consumers Energy blames cold winter for spike in bills”. In this story he interviews a number of people who saw their electric bills double or triple soon after installation of a smart electric meter. He then presents Consumers side of the story – that these sharp increases are caused by the unusually cold winter in December.

Pam and Dee are urging any of you who have a similar story about sharp increases in your electric bills, to send your story to reporter Cummins. There is the possibility that if he hears from enough of us he might do a followup story. His email is: clayton.cummins@wilx.com

Please be respectful and on-point with your comments meaning that this specific story is about the “increased bill” aspect of things, not the whole smart meter issue itself- When we stick to the point at hand, we think we have a better chance at making larger initial impact and the fuller story can emerge from there….

 

 

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Editor’s Note: We reproduce below an appeal
for all who can to attend a court proceeding
that may have far reaching consequences
for those who want to go ‘off grid’.

December 20th, 2016 – There is a hearing tomorrow in the case of Dr. Georgetta Livingstone versus her homeowners association.

For those of you who don’t know, Georgetta had her electrical power cut off by DTE over two years because of her inability to have an advanced meter on her home due to a documented health condition. Because electrical power is a necessary resource and one we cannot live without, she was forced to invest in and utilize alternative energy choices for electric power, solar, wind turbine and generator to power her home.

Georgetta’s home is in a subdivision with a neighborhood association. Both the association and some neighbors who were not happy with her choices for power are suing her. There were no rules in the association’s bylaws that prohibited the modifications that Georgetta  made to her home but they still have carried through with the suit.

This is a very important, precedent setting case as it will lay the foundation for our ability to pursue alternative energy choices for our homes in the state of Michigan either in response to the advanced utility meters or just in general. The ruling will have a high impact on our rights.

Georgetta and her attorney have recently taken part in unsuccessful mediation with the association and tomorrow’s hearing takes the next step towards the trial. The association is seeking to impose very high fees on Georgetta for taking the actions she needed to have electrical power in her home.

If you are able to attend this hearing, it would be helpful both for support and in making an impression on the judge in showing support for analog and alternative energy choice here in MIchigan. We know this is very last minute but if you do have some time tomorrow morning and can make it, it would be very helpful. The hearing should be very brief.

The hearing is at 8:30 A.M. December 21st  at the Oakland County Court House 1200 Telegraph Road in Judge Hallajarbou’s chamber.

Thanks so much for your continued help and support,

Pam and Dee

 

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By William Bathgate, Electrical Engineer
October 12th, 2016
Revised October 13th, 2016

Editor’s Note: In the following article, originally written as a public comment to the Michigan Public Service Commission, Mr. Bathgate considers safety issues with the new electric meters as related to our current discussion of a proposed rule change concerning emergency shutoffs for “hazardous conditions.” Revisions to this article are indicated in blue and consist mainly in the addition of a section dealing with the lack of lightning arrestors in the AMI meters.

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

 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 at the Emerson Electric Company. While at Emerson Electric I was the Senior Program Manager for Power Distribution Systems and 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 I was also 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 stamp 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 an 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 several important elements lacking or missing.

The switching mode power supply circuit is lacking effective Ground References, Lightning Protection and “Common Mode” EMI filters. 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 a solid or not solid low impedance connection ground point or surface, the ground plane reference (called a rotating return) of the circuit boards may be floating over a Zero voltage potential condition. This will create Electro-Magnetic Interference (EMI) via oscillation of the ground reference return paths. The use of no direct ground reference as in use today is a poor electrical practice with the AMI meter given all the environmental variables leads to a floating ground potential that could cause strong voltage and current ground potentials varying from zero to a worse case of 240 AC 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 power surge or lightning 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.

I have tested several homes for EMI created by the AMI meter and found that the ground environmental conditions dramatically affected the amount of EMI present. In one home I tested it had as a ground reference the copper water line feed from the city water supply. In this home there was very little EMI present as shown on my oscilloscope. In several another homes that had a standard 8 foot ground rod as the ground reference the EMI measured much, much higher. So there is a relationship of the AMI meter to the environmental reference to ground and EMI even though the circuit boards are not directly connected to a ground rod or ground reference. There was likely a magnetic coupling to earth ground taking place at the home using the water main as a ground reference. In all these homes all other lights, TV’s, PC’s, phone chargers etc. were disabled so I could avoid other variables affecting the readings. It goes to show that environmental variables can be very different from the test lab to the field environment.

Lightning:

First I have to say from my prior and current experience in very tall and large antenna arrays for the common house and business; lightning is very unpredictable and it is very costly to install effective lightning protection. Thankfully direct lightning strikes that are affecting the power feed and service entrance is random and less frequent. No commercial circuit board was ever designed to withstand a direct lightning strike. The US DoD has such designs but is very expensive to purchase. TV or commercial radio facilities have as much as $500,000 or more invested in lightning protection in order to stay on the air during a severe storm. All licensed amateur radio antennas are required by the FCC to have effective ground protection at the base of a tower to shunt a strike to ground. You are actually safer from lightning to be living close to a large metal antenna array because as a general rule lightning tries to reach ground via the shortest and lowest impedance electrical path. It is not uncommon to see a lightning trace zigzag across an electrical path as it seeks the lowest impedance and shortest path to zero potential ground. Note I did not mention the potential for RF exposure which is a separate issue altogether! A neighbor’s tall (over 30 Feet) metal antenna will be a shorter path to ground for lightning than your house next door.

In the AMI meter the circuit board that powers the solenoid actuator for the remote power disconnect feeding the power blade connection at the meter box is susceptible to the effects of lightning. When the low voltage DC power source on this circuit board becomes disrupted by a lightning strike and provided that the circuit boards survive the strike at all, this circuit board driven solenoid is subject to highly rapid disruption with a high frequency opening and closing of the remote disconnect contacts causing arcing and burnt contacts within the meter. This is completely undetectable by the consumer and may or may not manifest itself with flickering or dimming lights etc. The lightning may strike from two common sources; at the power pole or/and the surrounding ground area of the business or residence. The common person or business owner may not realize that the home or business ground rod reference wire runs in the middle between the two 240 volt AC power connections within the meter box and continues on to your entrance breaker panel. This is a minimal form of lightning protection because if the power pole gets hit by lightning the surge will likely jump the air gap between the two power line connections within the meter box and will shunt the lightning via the ground wire to the ground rod. Of course the meter and meter box itself may be damaged from this along with some of your internal house appliances etc. This ground connection was never meant to protect the meter box or your house internal wiring to survive a lightning strike; it is a power safety ground in case your internal house wiring or appliances have a direct short. Though not well known is that lightning can enter a building or home via your phone, DSL or Cable connections. I have learned from several catastrophic events by having my internet connections, TV’s and PC’s destroyed by a lightning strike many blocks away traveling these connections into the home. While I could not protect the DSL modem or cable modem from damage I could isolate the rest of my network with Ethernet Fiber Media converters. Once I did this I only lost the modem and nothing else downstream from it.

Analog Meters contained no electronic circuit boards and while not 100% immune from the effects of a lightning strike, they are much more tolerant than the AMI meter.    

Common Mode EMI:

A “Common Mode” filter attenuates high frequency currents. A common mode filter in this case would look like two coils wrapped around an iron or iron ferrite core either in the shape of a donut or a small cookie bar. 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 input AC circuit and the output AC circuit. A clean 50 or 60 Hz is needed and the AC input and AC output had 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 mode 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 business 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 Lightning vulnerabilities, EMI and RF emissions. There has been a disregard for the health and safety effects of these AMI meters on the general population by the utilities and their AMI supplier. So by their own lack of definition of “Dangerous or Hazardous” all AMI meters deployed at present need to be subject to shut off of service without notice 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”. Based on my analysis of the AMI meter and the Analog meter the AMI meter is far more dangerous to the general population than the Analog meter.

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 effects 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 directly 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 water decisions in Flint costing the State of Michigan many hundreds of millions of dollars and it is 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 request is both 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 the intimidation of shutoff of their power service without notice to deny them their first amendment rights. The public is not that stupid, significant numbers of the public knows the Utilities 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 not mandatory.

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 of the dramatic testimony of residents that are suffering terribly and the engineering analysis such as I and many others in this field have performed.

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 who are paying your salaries. 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The quantity and quality of public comments in the recent rules hearing of the Michigan Public Utilities Commission was quite remarkable. In the interest of getting a wider public hearing for these comments we publish them in full.  Click here

READING THIS TRANSCRIPT MAKES IT ABUNDANTLY CLEAR THERE IS NO PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR THESE DRACONIAN RULES THAT COMPLETELY FAVOR THE UTILITIES OVER THEIR CUSTOMERS!