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December 21st, 2017 – Senator Colbeck Calls for Electric Shut-Off Moratorium. Welcomes formal MPSC investigation.

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, said on Thursday that he welcomed the announcement of a formal investigation into the electric shut-off practices of DTE and called for a moratorium on such practices until the investigation was completed.

“In October our office began to see a big increase in the number of constituents contacting us and complaining about inappropriate shut-off notices and other problems that we reported to the MPSC,” Sen. Colbeck said. “As the months got colder those problems shockingly got worse instead of better. This formal investigation by the MPSC is going to clearly show that people were being threatened with shut-off notices they never should have received, resulting in turn with many of them then having their power inappropriately disconnected. In addition, getting power turned back on also took much longer than it is legally supposed to.

“This has gone beyond just minor billing snafus and has unacceptably created significant stress, hardship, and endangerment for hundreds of people whose simple wish is to pay their bills and receive electric service. Especially in Michigan where people can’t just change their utility provider when they’re treated like this, it is imperative that we hold both our utilities and our oversight 110 percent accountable.”

Now that the extent of the problem is being acknowledged, Sen. Colbeck also called for the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) to put a moratorium on DTE’s ability to shut off power to their residential customers until the investigation over the shut-off and billing problems has been completed. Power was wrongly cut for many reasons, but as an example, the investigation notice highlighted that at least 288 customers had their service improperly disconnected because of simple computer-related billing errors over the past six months.

“This investigation is still necessary, but it is already a forgone conclusion that DTE’s computer problems are causing people to have power cut because of internal communication problems within DTE that incorrectly put people at risk for being flagged for shut-off,” said Colbeck. “I’ve had people contact me one week saying they got an inappropriate shut-off notice, were assured the next week that it wouldn’t happen, and then a few days later they would call my office back because DTE had returned to their home threatening shut-off again.

“Until the investigation shows the exact steps that need to be taken to fix all of this, it would be prudent for the MPSC to, at the very least, have to pre-approve all residential shut-offs while this investigation is ongoing. A moratorium would be an even better course of action if simple billing errors that could affect anyone would result in shut-offs that jeopardize ratepayer health and personal safety during our cold winter months.”

Sen. Colbeck said while the main concern is for seniors, especially those who live by themselves, that in today’s high tech world a lack of power impacts everyone.

“Older individuals would be calling from the library asking for help because their VOIP phones would not work with the power off and they had no way to recharge their cell phones,” Sen. Colbeck said. “When they would try to contact DTE they could often only leave a message, but had no working phone for DTE to even call them back on. Those who could not rely on the help of neighbors were significantly impacted.

“But even younger families faced hardships beyond the cold. People’s computers would not work, and their kids were missing school assignments. Burglar alarms were down. Birthday parties and Thanksgiving plans were disrupted. Even for people who received notices but didn’t get shut off, they went through several stressful weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop and were oftentimes afraid to leave their homes unattended for fear of finding their power cut when they returned.”

Sen. Colbeck also highlighted that because the MPSC only knows what it is told that it is critical that people call the MPSC to lodge complaints. If people don’t call, the extent of the investigation will be understated. People should call 1.800.292.9555 for any complaint they have, even if the incident occurred several months ago.

Sen. Colbeck’s previous press release on the matter also drew attention to the fact that the MPSC currently does not formally ask the utilities to report why people have their electric power involuntarily shut off. Sen. Colbeck said he felt that would be an issue that would hamper the investigation and shows the need for changes in reporting.

“State administrative rules need to be rewritten so that something like this can’t happen again,” Sen. Colbeck said. “I believe that the current law requires more detailed reporting than what the utilities are now submitting to the MPSC, but in any event it is clear that the MPSC has the legal ability to now retroactively ask for those details as they conduct this investigation. For example, it has been extremely frustrating for me to see people getting their power turned off because they simply want to keep their analog meter, to then be told that it is a rare occurrence, but then be unable to get the actual data on how frequently it is happening.

“For a start we need to change the rules that allow for such meter-choice related shut-offs, that encourage lax reporting, and that allow utilities to take too long restoring power without experiencing any real ramifications.  Waiting a week to get power restored in the cold is simply too long, especially when the person shouldn’t even be getting their power cut in the first place.”

Sen. Colbeck said that the type of behavior being exemplified by the shut-offs shows why both utility choice and meter-choice urgently need to be reexamined.

“Until people can vote with their feet we’ll continue to see these problems,” Sen. Colbeck said. “People deserve the right to flee poor service when it jeopardizes their health and well-being.”

Please also check out our Home page and
consider making a donation to support our
ongoing efforts to educate through this
site and through flyering in the districts of
House Energy Committee members who have
been holding up passage of House Bill 4220.

 

 

 

 

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DECEMBER 16TH, 2017 – WE STILL NEED HELP!!!  Two months ago we made an appeal for donations to cover our ongoing costs for flyering, educational efforts and possible newspaper ads. A few of you contributed generously and we appreciate that. But we need more of you to step up and help with this – by donation or by volunteering.

Again, how much we can do will depend on your generosity in donating to us at this time.

If you are angry at what DTE, Consumers Energy and their cronies in state offices are doing to Michigan utility customers, and you appreciate all that we are doing to fight these injustices, then PLEASE HELP US by donation or by volunteering your time!

click to Donate

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September 20th, 2017 – In a newsletter to his constituents in Michigan’s 7th Senate District, Senator Colbeck reports that he is receiving huge numbers of complaints about unreasonable shutoffs of electric service because of smart meter disputes. Many of these shutoffs are happening even when there has been no locking of meters or attempts to block installers.

Colbeck beautifully sums up the whole issue with this “The MPSC says citizens have a choice. But choosing between having electricity or not having electricity, as hundreds of people in the 7th District and across the state are finding out, is no real choice at all. It is coercion.”

Read his whole opinion in his newsletter HERE.

Please also check out our home page here.

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by David Sheldon

September 17th, 2017 – WE NEED HELP!  Michigan Stop Smart Meters has been working for more than 6 years to fight the forced installation of ‘smart’ utility meters by Michigan’s two largest utilities.

In 2015, when we brought in world renowned expert, Dr. David Carpenter, to testify before the Michigan Public Service Commission, we appealed for your financial support and many of you gave generously to make that event happen!  We are now at a juncture where there is much more to be done and we cannot do it without your support!

Our efforts to date have been in the political, educational, legal and regulatory arenas, and has resulted in much media coverage. Our efforts have also had much to do with the introduction of several bills in our legislature designed to protect utility customers – including the Opsommer bill, the McMillin bill and, most recently, the introduction of House Bill 4220 by current Michigan House Energy Chairman Gary Glenn.  But now we need to make a full court press to see that this bill is passed on by the Energy Committee to the full House. This will involve radio ads, print ads and extensive flyering. There are also some legal battles in the works. With your support we can do a lot. Without such support we cannot.

OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS SO FAR!
We at Michigan Stop Smart Meters have, in concert with others, been struggling for more than six years now to raise health, safety and privacy issues with respect to so called “smart meters” now being deployed by DTE on the east side of state, and by Consumers Energy on the west side.

OUR POLITICAL WORK: In concert with others we petitioned city and county governments to endorse our cause, put on special PowerPoint presentations before city councils and got the backing of 34 local governments.  This resulted in a sham MPSC investigation, but also led to the introduction of three proposed new meter choice laws – the Opsommer bill, the McMillin bill and now under consideration House Bill 4220, also know as the Glenn bill.  It also led to the spectacularly successful hearing before the House Oversight Committee on December 2nd, 2014 and a series of hearings before the House Energy Committee in 2017.

OUR EDUCATIONAL WORK: We sponsored this website and public educational meetings in Allen Park, Cheboygan, Clinton Township, East Detroit, Detroit, Ferndale, Fraser, Grand Blanc, Grand Rapids, Holland, Midland, Muskegon, Parchment, Plymouth, Rochester, Romeo, Romulus and Taylor   We have been interviewed by Macomb Daily, Oakland Press, Detroit News, Hometown Newspapers, by Holland radio’s “Talk of the Town” program, by Fox17 News in Grand Rapids, by Channel 13 in Grand Rapids and most recently this year by Guy Gordon on WJR Radio and by WXYZ TV.

OUR LEGAL WORK: We closely followed and supported two cases in Oakland Circuit Court where Detroit Edison had sued local couples who changed their own meters when they became ill and could get no relief from the utility.  In one of the cases the couple had suffered an unjust decision early on from a circuit judge and was in need of our help to mount an appeal. We provided that help. That was the Stenman case and is reported elsewhere on this website. In the other case the couple needed some initial assistance at the circuit court level, but the case ultimately settled without an appeal. We also assisted the Cusumanos in appealing the DTE ‘Opt-Out’ Plan. We assisted some residents of the Muskegon area in mounting a 16 person appeal of the Consumers Energy ‘Opt-Out’ Plan. This was the case known as Rison et al. Our support won for them a preliminary ruling from the Court of Appeals that allowed the case to survive a Motion for Summary Dismissal. That in turn led to the group receiving a financial donation that enabled them to hire attorneys to finish the case. The case was ultimately joined to one brought by the Attorney General and the two joined cases resulted in a remand of the opt-out plan back to MPSC for a redo.

OUR REGULATORY WORK: In 2015 we intervened in DTE’s general rate case before the Michigan Public Service Commission. This case included a review of the details of the smart meter opt-out program as well as cost justification for the overall smart meter program in Michigan. As part of that case we brought in world renowned Dr. David Carpenter of the State University of New York to testify before the commission. That case is reported elsewhere on this website. Many of you contributed generously to cover the expenses of bringing Dr. Carpenter in.

OUR PLANS GOING FORWARD: Our focus right now is primarily on educating more citizens to demand of their elected representatives that they pass meter choice legislation, such as the current House Bill 4220, introduced by Energy Chairman Gary Glenn, with 16 co-sponsors, and supported on the Senate floor by Senator Patrick Colbeck who has launched a campaign to be Michigan’s next Governor. This educational campaign will require funds for intensive flyering in many districts, and for newspaper and radio ads. How successful we will be with this will depend very much on the generosity of our activists with this fund raising effort.

Other legal efforts are also under consideration, including:

(1) an appeal of a particularly egregious harassment by a Michigan utility of a woman whose very life was threatened by a forced installation of a digital meter. This is a case that could set a crucial precedent to help all those whose health is endangered by smart or digital meters.

(2) a possible Fourth Amendment, multi-plaintiff lawsuit in federal court to defend the rights of all Michigan utility customers who have been forced to take a smart meter or have their power turned off.

Again, how much we can do will depend on your generosity in donating to us at this time.

If you are angry at what DTE, Consumers Energy and their cronies in state offices are doing to Michigan utility customers, and you appreciate all that we are doing to fight these injustices, then PLEASE HELP US by donation or by volunteering your time!

click to Donate

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(Updated May 29th, 2017)

May 27th, 2017 – An Opportunity to Show Support for Chairman Glenn’s Efforts to Move Michigan Toward a Freer Energy Environment – We strongly encourage all smart meter activists who can to attend the hearing of the Michigan House Energy Committee on Tuesday May 30th at 9 am in the Anderson House Office Building, Room 519, at 124 North Capitol Avenue, Lansing. There is a parking ramp 2 blocks north of the Anderson building on Capitol Avenue.

Chairman Gary Glenn has arranged for two of the leading proponents of replacing some of the regulation with more competition in the energy markets. This program should be quite different from some of the industry and state government people who have testified up to now.

Smart meters are just one example of what happens when there is too much monopoly power. Utilities in Michigan are forcing us to take these unwanted meters while at the same time charging us some of the highest rates in the midwest and providing less reliability and fewer choices.

The experts Glenn is bringing in can provide competent testimony about what happens when utility customers have more choices:

Todd Snitchler is former Chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). He was first appointed in 2011 by Governor John Kasich and served on that commission until 2014. He is now a practicing attorney. Under Snitchler’s leadership Ohio made major progress in moving its utility industry away from a highly regulated model toward more competition and innovation. A scholarly article discussing utility deregulation in that state with many citations to his contributions can be found here:

http://cua6.urban.csuohio.edu/publications/center/center_for_economic_development/ElectricityMarketsInOhio

Dr. Gary L. Wolfram, an adjunct scholar at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, is a Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College. In 2015 he released his new study Improving Michigan’s Electric Utility Industry. In the study, Wolfram highlights inefficiencies in Michigan’s regulated energy sector and recommends that legislative action is needed to control costs, reduce pollution and improve outcomes. A discussion of his work may be found here:

http://www.micef.org/press/2015/9/17/hillsdale-economist-gary-wolfram-releases-energy-study-improving-michigans-electric-utility-industry-released-today

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MARCH 14TH, 2017 – A THIRD HEARING ON THE METER CHOICE BILL AND A GREAT PRESENTATION ON ELECTRIC CHOICE BY THE MACKINAC CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY.   Because there had been concerns expressed by committee members about possible shifting of costs from opt-out customers to smart meter customers, today’s hearing in the Michigan House Energy Committee began with a special presentation by Richard Meltzer, a retired PhD statistical researcher and consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy. Dr. Meltzer had also participated as an intervener in the MPSC case U-17053, the case in which the present opt-out fees for DTE were determined. Key testimony included Meltzer’s assertion that the opt-out fees determined in that case were punitive, designed not to recover costs but to discourage opt-outs, and that DTE has been very selective in attaching certain costs to classes of customers while not doing so in other cases, in order to suit its own purposes. He provided specifics in the form of exhibits from the U-17053 case to back up his assertion that the net cost shift between smart meter customers and opt-out customers had been overwhelmingly in the direction of burdening the opt-out customers.

A decision was made to defer voting on the merits of the meter choice bill to allow more time to address concerns of some committee members. Rep Glenn offered an amendment to modify the text of HB 4220,  primarily to remove water meters from this bill thereby limiting this bill to energy utilities (electric and gas) that are regulated by the Michigan Public Services Commission. The definition of “traditional meter” was also improved to remove any ambiguity that “traditional meter” could mean anything other than an analog meter. The amendment of the bill’s text was approved unanimously, with understanding that a separate bill will be introduced for the smart water meters.

The Mackinac Center presentation, by Jason Hayes, was a plea for free market principles in the electricity markets. Examples were given that in states where electric provider choice was not capped at 10% (including Michigan between 2000 and 2008) electric rates were much lower than in states where there was no choice or choice capped. In the questions following this presentation Rep Kivella asked if Mr. Hayes believed it was appropriate for smart meter opt-out rates to be set at an arbitrary figure by this legislative committee of “largely non experts” or by the Public Service Commission. The response was that “just at a gut level I don’t like the idea of trusting a Public Service Commission except where you have to, and in this case, setting electricity rates you have to.” He indicated that he would prefer a market based setting of all rates but that the PSC is the system we have.

After the Mackinac Center presentation there were more public comments on the meter choice bill. Complete video of this hearing here.

 

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MARCH 5TH, 2017 – The Michigan House Energy Committee will hold its second hearing Tuesday March 7th at 9 am, on House Bill 4220,energymtg2-02212017 proposed legislation that would assure utility customers (electric, gas and water) of a choice to have or keep their analog meters at a minimal fee or no fee if they self read.

please-attend-hearingPlease attend the second Analog Meter Choice hearing this coming Tuesday. If you want to present testimony, please come prepared to speak and fill out a card before start of meeting. Those who come to speak should dress professionally. However, since the hearing is only 90 minutes long, know that there may not be time for your testimony to be heard this Tuesday. More hearings may be scheduled in the future. You can always email your testimony to the members of the Energy Policy Committee before House Bill 4220 Analog Meter Choice legislation is voted on in Committee.  We don’t know when this vote will take place, but we will keep you posted.

INFORMATION FOR THOSE ATTENDING