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Nanci Rose Gerler
Pinckney, Michigan

January 29, 2018

All Members of Michigan State House of Representatives, Energy Policy Committee

RE: Energy Committee hearing of January 30, 2018 and MPSC Case U-18486 Investigation into DTE Shut-Offs

Dear Energy Policy Committee Member,

In your investigation into violation of shut-off protocols by DTE: The scope and breadth of audacious mendacity, cruelty and brutality by a corporate monopoly turned tyranny, will spawn a “me, too” response far greater than the Flint Water Crisis and Larry Nasser scandals. For the beleaguered customers subject to their atrocities, there has been no satisfactory response or recourse from DTE nor the MPSC, whose “service to the public” is illusory. Complaints and entreaties to the corporation yield no results, only perpetuation of the standardized lies they portray as “truth” through repetition. The MPSC serves as defenders and enablers of DTE, echoing the programmed responses provided to them to the degree that MPSC staff sound exactly like DTE employees.

The MPSC has diffused and refused legitimate complaints of outrageous and egregious actions against consumers with responses like “We regulate rates, not business practices”. Personal and anecdotal experiences recount unjustified and retaliatory behaviors by DTE more often associated with organized crime syndicates and fascist governments than “standard business policies”.

Customers who object to the installation of the misnamed smart meters for many of the justifiable reasons (such as threats to health, safety of home and property, privacy, security, accuracy, and excessive costs) are subject to heinous treatment. The experiences of residents of the Glennbrook Beach Association (GBA), located in the Pinckney Recreation Area in northwest Washtenaw County, illustrates the extreme measures DTE has used to suppress opposition.  Upon notification in July 2016 of the forthcoming AMI installation, over three quarters of the forty homeowners sent a polite certified letter to DTE, requesting to retain their analog meters (as allowed by Consumers Energy). The majority of homes in this small private lakeside enclave are seasonal summer homes or cottages with some structures almost one hundred years old, which are surrounded by a land conservancy and state land. Generations of families have lived here and the majority of residents are elderly retirees on a fixed income, who wished to retain the pristine nature of their long time community environment, without the interference and issues of a wireless mesh network.

A standard form letter sent by DTE was the only reply. Residents posted legal notices, and in some cases locked meters as the only prevention to unwanted installation. In early 2017, DTE cut off locks to six homes and installed AMI meters with no notification to the residents. Phone calls of protest to DTE were ignored. On July 24, 2017 everything changed, when the GBA was subject to a military style tactical operation by DTE, deploying a convoy of ten DTE, contractor and private security vehicles to storm the private community. Power was cut at the pole to over a dozen homes of customers paid current, most of whom had received no communication from DTE since the aforementioned form letter almost a year prior. This orchestrated maneuver was staged and documented with photographs by rude and intimidating workers who thrust letters into hands or onto homes – the first notification of shut-off most residents had received. All this occurred while over 80,000 regional DTE customers still awaited power restoration after a high wind-event the previous night. This indicates a gross misallocation of resources and priorities.

Residents were shocked and traumatized by the callous cruelty of the workers who took obvious delight in cutting power, water and sanitary capacities. (GBA is on a well and electrical grinder sewer system). Scrambling to restore power, residents faced excruciating long waits on the phone (often 1.5 to 3 hours). All affected residents ordered the ‘opt out’ meter but many were informed that ‘opt outs’ were “out of stock, back ordered, unavailable for 3 to 4 weeks”, or it was “too late and they had to accept a ‘smart meter’ to have service”. However, when the DTE installer arrived the next day, he had both standard and ‘opt out’ meters for orders placed, and acknowledged that ‘opt out’ meters are ‘smart meters’ with the radio turned off  – which could be programmed on-site or remotely.

DTE’s rationale for the illegal power shut-offs was that “locking devices on meters posed health and safety hazards to the customers and neighbors”. The DTE installer proceeded to affix tamper proof locks on utility boxes (homeowner property) accessible only by DTE. This refutes DTE’s justification as spurious while imposing genuine health, safety and sanitation hazards on hapless residents without electricity, water & sewer for 2 to 8 days.

DTE’s ‘shock and awe’ strong-arm tactics forced the remainder of the residents into compliance, to avoid unwanted and unwarranted shut-off. The use of “hired goons and hired guns” (contractors and security) is never justified, especially when no aspect of the five-step process for standard shut-off protocol was adhered to.

To add insult and injury, within six days of installation my ‘opt-out’ meter was intentionally re-programmed to operate as a radio transmitting ‘smart meter’. As an extremely electro-hypersensitive individual, I experienced immediate negative health symptoms, which alerted me to the change. A neighbor confirmed that she had seen a DTE vehicle on the property the day prior (a Sunday afternoon), when there were no new orders pending. DTE did not change the meter out for six weeks, during which time both myself and my cat were debilitated by serious illness and symptoms caused by the transmitting meter. My cat’s vomiting ceased as soon as the meter was replaced with a new ‘opt-out’ meter, but he had lost one third of his normal body weight. I also lost weight due to constant nausea and sleeplessness, and it took months to recover from symptoms.

Another resident’s ‘opt out’ meter was fully defective, never registering a kilowatt since installation. This resulted in extremely high estimated bills that bore no relation to years of usage history. Hours of phone calls and emails yielded nothing but frustration and aggravation, with threat of service shut-off for non-payment of inaccurate, bloated bogus bills. He was charged $9.99 in advance for a service call to diagnose the defect. After several calls and several days, the installer did not show up for several scheduled appointments. When he finally arrived he did not have the diagnostic device necessary and simply switched to a new meter. The billing situation was unresolved by the time the seasonal resident left, because of DTE’s “continuing computer billing issues”. Immense time and energy was expended over a defective meter that was unwanted and unneeded, since such problems had not occurred with his long time analog meters.

None of the initial customers who were refused ‘opt-outs’ received them. Others who called to order them were forced to leave a message with no subsequent response or follow up. Residents have concluded that DTE is the worst company they have ever dealt with, yet have no recourse due to the state imposed monopoly. This situation allows DTE to exploit, abuse, and extricate unjustified monies from their captive customers – as exemplified by the extortionary fees charged for the ‘opt-out’ meters. Customers have the right to read and report their own meters but must pay to have them read by contractors who drive their own vehicles, and whose meager compensation in no way justifies the $9.80 monthly fee.

As long-standing paying customers who denied consent to install a new meter, we were subjected to bullying, intimidation, trickery, harassment, trespassing, destruction of property, and unjustified shut-off. Since ‘smart meter’ installation, other residents and their companion animals have experienced debilitating health effects – one dog and two cats have subsequently died.

DTE must be held responsible and accountable for their numerous transgressions against the paying public, who deserve redress and remuneration for the difficulties caused by the improper shut-offs, which constitute abuse by the utility. The report recently submitted to your committee by DTE is a work of fiction created by these masters of mendacity, and must be independently investigated and verified. As a former Ann Arbor resident who has dealt with DTE over these issues since 2012, I can attest that they lie and deceive with consistency, ie “that’s my story and I am sticking to it”.

The abusive conduct endemic to DTE necessitates the passing of bill 4220 to provide analog meter choice and protect the rights, health, safety and financial well being of DTE’s customer base (never a priority to DTE). Governed by greed and need for excessive profits, their $30 billion net worth allows them deep pockets to influence media, MPSC and politicians. The threatening and intimidating non-protocol shut-off letters (received after the fact), referred customers to call a phone number – which is the hot line to report energy theft tampering or fraud – falsely implying wrong-doing on the part of the customer.

Please use the power vested in you by the people to censure and penalize DTE, and compensate injured parties. Grant the freedom of meter choice to the citizens that elected you by representing their interests, over those of the self-serving monopoly utility corporations.

Respectfully submitted,

Nanci Rose Gerler

 

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Movie Producer Offers False Hope to Thousands
by David Sheldon
Revised August 8th, 2017

Most of us were very impressed with the quality of the film ‘Take Back Your Power’ by Josh del Sol. It has been effective in motivating people whenever it has had a showing. This movie producer undoubtedly has a talent for dramatizing the smart meter issue.

In December of 2014 Mr. del Sol came to speak following a showing of his film at the Royal Oak Art Theater. He and an associate, Cal Washington, used this time for an illustrated presentation in some detail, of a process for (supposedly) stopping utilities from installing smart meters. Documents to be used were presented on the big screen and discussed in some detail. In these documents, liberally punctuated by biblical references, there was much about holding individual utility executives and politicians personally liable financially by using merchant law, and sending them a series of letters which would ‘notify them of their liability’.  At the end of this meeting some 20 or so individuals were persuaded to attend a follow-up meeting for the purpose of putting the process to work in their own situations.

Now Mr. Del Sol has sent out an email indicating his intention to go nationwide and perhaps even worldwide with this process. He has also setup a web site where he is soliciting funds to support his activities. He indicates the process has been tested with three “seed groups”. Apparently the Michigan group he formed in 2014 is one of those three seed groups.

There is a problem with all this: the process does not work. Despite my own visibility in the smart meter choice movement through this website and in many other ways, I have not heard from even one of the 20 people in that Michigan seed group stating that, after following del Sol’s process, they were successful in keeping a smart meter off their home.

The process is inherently flawed because it is based on the assumption that officials can be forced to deal with us on our terms and become individually liable just because we assert in letters that they are individually liable. The process also assumes that one can form a binding contract with officials by making an offer which they refuse or neglect to answer. Contract law does not work that way. A valid contract requires an offer and an acceptance. Ignoring an offer does not constitute acceptance. And for the process to mean anything there would have to be some real concern by the officials that courts would, in fact, hold them personally liable for their actions.

There is a problem with that as well. From what we have seen so far, the courts here in Michigan are not about to rule against the utilities no matter what arguments are presented to them. We have had four cases now reach the Michigan Court of Appeals. Issues such as property rights, privacy, health, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment (takings clause) and Michigan’s own felony surveillance law, and others have been argued with thorough support from the Constitution, the statutes and case law. But the appeals court has ignored all of that and ruled against us at every turn. We have seen similar disregard of the law in some other states and in the federal court system.

Smart meters are clearly a world wide threat, being forced on people in every industrialized country. This, despite the fact these meters are not “green” but actually increase overall energy usage and add to the amount of carbon dioxide being produced. There is clearly an agenda in play, emanating from policy makers at the international level, through our federal government to our state government. Policy makers at the federal and state level are driving the agenda, essentially bribing utilities by creating vast opportunities for the utilities and the technology companies that supply them to participate in this bonanza. And our judges are not going to get in the way of that agenda. Perhaps they have been bribed or warned of consequences to themselves if they side with us.

All that said, there may still be opportunities for individuals whose very lives have been placed in jeopardy to obtain limited relief from our courts – providing they seek remedies that only carve out very narrow exceptions to the program, leaving the overall agenda intact.

Now if our courts are not going to uphold the Fourth Amendment, or the Fifth Amendment, or Michigan’s own felony surveillance law because of an agenda from on high, then why on earth would they enforce merchant law when it conflicts with the same agenda? It makes no sense whatever. The officials who are supposed to be scared straight by the various documents and letters in this process will simply laugh at them.

I believe it is important for me to publish an article exposing this process, which is akin to the Emperor’s Clothes in the old fable, because I believe that otherwise many in our Michigan smart meter resistance movement will be tempted to sign on, invest heavily of their time, and make donations to a process that is not going to help them in their individual situations and certainly not help our movement.

Why is Mr. del Sol promoting a process that he must know does not and cannot work? Who can say? His intentions may be the best but perhaps he has been misled in some way.

Our focus as a movement now needs to be on getting meter choice legislation passed. Those who can afford to make a donation or do volunteer work should be directing their time and money to help the various Michigan groups that are working toward that goal.

Those groups are:

Smart Meter Education Network                           smartmetereducationnetwork.com

Michigan Stop Smart Meters                                  michiganstopsmartmeters.com

Analog Meter Choice                                              analogmeterchoice@gmail.com

Utility Meter Choice 4 Michigan                           mysmartmeterdoeswhat.com

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FIRST MEETING OF THE
MICHIGAN HOUSE ENERGY COMMITTEE

February 7th, 2017 – On this day the first (organizational) meeting took place for the Energy Committee of the Michigan House of Representatives, mich-house-energy-policy-committee-2017Chaired by Rep Gary Glenn. This is a new day for meter choice legislation because the new chairman, unlike his predecessor, strongly supports our cause and the cause of energy consumers generally.

We think all Michigan smart meter activists will be heartened to watch the entire first meeting under Rep Glenn’s leadership. Clearly he intends to fight for energy consumers at all levels – residential customers, school systems and large industrial users of electricity. He makes the point that school systems, for example, will be able to hire more teachers with the money they save when they have a choice of energy provider.

Rep Glenn believes the whole matter of whether DTE and Consumers should have a full monopoly in their respective service territories should be re-evaluated, notwithstanding the legislation that was passed in December of 2016.

Glenn stresses that the smart meter issue is basically one of property rights and a monopoly utility being able to force new and unwanted technology on its customers. Smart meter activists will find his remarks on that subject 12 minutes and 30 seconds into the meeting, which can be viewed HERE.

PLEASE CHECK OUR HOME PAGE FOR OTHER NEW ARTICLES!

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(Editor’s note: Rep Gary Glenn, sponsor of
the new bill is also now Chairman of the
House Energy Committee and promises
a hearing this session)

by Clayton Cummins, WILX News 10, Lansing
(full article linked below)

February 8th, 2017 – “There’s a move in the state legislature to get rid of fees that utilities charge to customers who want to keep their “old meters”.

This bill hasn’t been formally introduced just yet and Representative Gary Glenn (R-Midland) is working to get support for it.

… In addition to waiving the opt-out fees, the legislation would allow home owners to self-read their meter by just taking a picture of it and sending it in.

The utility could check the meter quarterly to confirm they’re not being misled.

Rep. Glenn tells News 10 the choice should be up to the home owner.”

“As long as those utilities are a state privilege monopoly given the right exclusively to deliver electricity, then we are going to protect homeowners from that kind of monopoly policy,” said Rep. Glenn. “Trying to force certain technology on homeowners against their will or if they refuse to have it installed, charge them.”   More

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UPDATE ON MICHIGAN COURT OF APPEALS DECISIONS

by Vigilant Dave
July 26th, 2015

Justice iconsThis past week we saw first an unfortunate decision in the Sheldon smart meter appeal. That was the case in which the Court had found in April of 2012 that a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) decision on smart meters did not have any substantial factual support. The Court had ordered the MPSC to do the case over and this time to consider all aspects of smart meters, including the “risks and burdens” on customers and the ”experience in other states.” But the Commission chose to defy the court’s order and consider only the effect of smart meters on utility rates. The Commission also chose to exclude the very interveners who could have presented evidence on the issues the appeals court wanted considered.

David Sheldon brought an appeal as one of the excluded interveners, essentially arguing that the Commission was in contempt of court. A panel of three judges heard the case, which was not the panel that had earlier ordered the Commission to consider all the aspects. This panel actually found no problem with the Commission’s conduct! They failed, in their written opinion and order, to state any logical basis for finding that the Commission had carried out the earlier order and should not be found in contempt.

That decision may be read here.

A second decision this week was on a Motion for Reconsideration filed by the MPSC on the Consumers Energy case. This was the case, known as Rison et al, filed by a group of 16 Consumers customers from the Muskegon area. The Commission had been ordered back in May to redo a contested case involving their decision to approve funding and an opt-out plan for Consumers Energy customers. The scope of the remand was  limited to rate issues, with no indication that the Commission need consider health or privacy concerns. And no requirement that the Commission need allow the Consumers customers who brought this case to participate in the remand hearings.

The MPSC wanted the Court to reverse that decision on grounds they had already thoroughly examined smart meter issues and there was no need for further inquiry. In this matter the majority of the justices simply denied the motion, so that the earlier order remained in effect and the majority made it clear that the scope of the case would remain limited as earlier ordered.

But this time something happened that was not business as usual. Judge O’Connell, who had participated in that earlier decision, filed a dissenting opinion in which he actually expressed his view that the scope of the earlier order should be expanded to specifically include health and privacy issues. He stated that due process requires that customers who have smart meter concerns have a forum in which to present evidence to back up their concerns. He also questioned the justice of charging opt-out fees, questioned the objectivity of the MPSC, questioned the propriety of the Attorney General representing both sides in a contested case and opined that it was time for the Michigan Supreme Court to get involved. It must be stressed this was a dissenting opinion and in no way was it the order of the court. But at least it gives us some reason for hope that we are beginning to change minds.

 That colorful dissenting opinion can be read here.