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July 6, 2012 – Two legislators say Michigan Public Service Commission Report still inconclusive on need for ‘smart meters’

State Reps. Paul Opsommer and Tom McMillin today announced their disappointment with the results of the Michigan Public Service Commission’s recent report regarding the use of Advanced Metering Infrastructure, also known as “smart meters.”  Both legislators said ratepayers are being forced to pay for devices that have not been shown to save consumers any money, and are not being given an ability to opt out of the controversial program.

“People are being forced to pay for something they don’t want and can’t opt out of,” said Opsommer, R-DeWitt. “I submitted a number of questions to the commission, but none of those concerns were sufficiently addressed by this report. Despite the promises made by the utilities to offer a clear opt-out program, I have yet to hear of a single case of someone getting one removed from their home or being able to send a letter to the utility in advance of installation that is being honored. Something has to change, and change quickly.”

Both legislators said Michigan has a monopolistic-type utilities market and without an opt-out program, people are essentially being left with the choice of accepting the devices or forgoing electricity altogether.  That puts citizens into an unacceptable position of having to try to go completely off-grid or living in a self-imposed blackout.

“After the MPSC’s recent report it’s clear that legislation like mine or Rep. Opsommer’s needs to become law,” McMillin said.  “We must ensure Michigan citizens’ rights are protected and that we don’t allow monopoly utilities to impose on people untested technologies that are connected to security, health and privacy concerns.”

More than 400 public comments were submitted to the commission with questions related to the new meters, ranging from unproven consumer benefits, security concerns over hacking and remote shut-off, safety related issues, and consumer privacy.  Over 20 municipalities have passed resolutions asking for a moratorium on installation of the smart meters until more research is done.  Despite the public outcry in the affected areas there has been no discernible slowdown in the installation rollout.

“We’ve all been reminded recently of the negative impact that even small blackouts can have on our health and economy, yet here we are blindly rushing into statewide installation of devices that security experts agree may create more security issues than they solve,” said Opsommer. “I don’t want the next blackout we have to be the result of a terrorist hacking into the remote shut-off systems of our utilities. Why are we rushing into statewide installation and turning consumers’ homes into guinea pigs just so we can quickly spend federal stimulus dollars or impose higher rates?  It makes no sense.”

House Bill 5439 introduced by Opsommer and HB 5411 introduced by McMillin put basic consumer protections into place, require an opt-out, and give municipal moratoriums the force of law.  The bills are currently awaiting a hearing in the House Energy and Technology Committee.

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