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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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Could this Smart ‘Meter’ Case Have Been Won?
by David Sheldon

Many of us have been planning for some time how to bring a really good smart electric “meter” lawsuit against DTE. This would be a case seeking injunctive relief against DTE’s illegal installations, and based on sound legal principles.

LawDuring the week of January 26th, we saw an example of what can happen when a poorly conceived and/or poorly executed lawsuit against a utility gets in court. This article is based on an actual review of the public court documents in the case of Andrea McNinch and Phillip R. Sullivan vs. DTE. It is with some reluctance we tell this story as we remain grateful for all McNinch did in arranging a free showing of the movie “Take Back Your Power” at the Royal Oak Main Theater on December 10th.

Nevertheless, not to report this story would leave an impression on many who are fighting smart “meters” that our cause was dealt a major setback. As reported by the Oakland Press  and Channel 7 News, DTE shut off electric power to Royal Oak resident Andrea McNinch in December over a smart meter issue. She and her husband filed, representing themselves, a lawsuit against the utility in January in Oakland Circuit Court. Her husband was DTE’s customer of record. The suit sought an injunction to require DTE to restore her power. On January 28th the court, following a motion hearing, declined to grant an injunction to plaintiff but did not close the case. A counter claim by DTE is apparently still pending.

Why did this happen? Of course this electric power shut off was, in fact, an injustice to McNinch. The device DTE calls a “smart meter” or “advanced meter” is in fact an electronic device that in no way conforms to the definition of “meter” that is in the statute and in the MPSC regulations. While it has the ability to measure electric consumption for billing purposes it is so much more than that so that we will refer to it as the “smart device”. No law or MPSC regulation has established that a condition for receiving electrical service from DTE is that the customer must accept either a smart device with radio on or a smart device with radio turned off.

There is authority in the law and in the regulations for the installation of a “meter” only. When DTE installed the “smart device” on the McNinch home without customer consent they committed an illegal act. They are getting away with such illegal acts on a massive scale because public officials who know better are “looking the other way”. The refusal of the utility to remove what they had illegally installed led to the necessity for self help.

Confronted with this situation, the utility’s proper and legal response should have been to acknowledge their error and either accept the analog meter McNinch had installed or substitute one of their own. Instead they chose to bully the customer into submitting to the illegal smart device with threats and then an actual shutoff. McNinch requested an informal utility hearing, but neither she nor anyone representing her interests showed up for the hearing. She lost that round by default. Her power was shut off the same day she failed to appear for her hearing.

An informal appeal was next made to the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). McNinch and her husband filed a lawsuit in Oakland Circuit Court seeking an injunction to require DTE to turn the power back on. A staff analyst with MPSC eventually sided with the utility, though there is no date on his decision. It is unclear therefore if his decision came before or after the lawsuit was filed. The only arguments put forward in the suit were that McNinch got headaches from the smart device and from the ‘opt-out’ device and that the utility was wrong to turn off power the same day the no show hearing took place. She argued that, since the written hearing decision did not come out until 4 days later, and there was a 7 day right to appeal, the power should have stayed on at least until the MPSC issued its staff report on the informal appeal.

What is amazing about this lawsuit is that no argument was made that the smart device installation had been illegal or that the device was never actually authorized by any law or MPSC regulation. Nor did McNinch present any explanation as to why DTE’s alternative meter was not an acceptable solution to any health complaints. Nor did she present any evidence from worldwide health experts who have condemned smart ‘meter’ technology. Nor were privacy or Fourth Amendment issues raised in the court filings. She presented no argument as to why she was justified in changing her own meter.

On top of all that DTE’s main argument for immediately disconnecting power without waiting for the hearing officer’s report was that McNinch had created an unsafe situation by changing her own meter. Incredibly no effort was made to rebut this argument.

To win in court you have to present legally admissible evidence AND a legal theory (argument) under which you are entitled to relief under those facts. It is not up to the judge to come up with a legal theory if you fail to state one. The burden is on the plaintiff to make a prima facie case before any real burden is on the defendant. McNinch and her husband did not make a prima facie case. There are risks, of course, in representing yourself without an attorney. There are also risks in being represented by an attorney (if you choose the wrong one).

Why do we analyze this case? When McNinch arranged the showing of the film “Take Back Your Power” she also bore the expense of bringing this film producer to Michigan to meet with us after the film showing. This led to a workshop wherein she and Mr. Del Sol convinced many people they had a winning legal strategy that could be implemented by sending DTE a series of letters. We expressed great skepticism about this approach in an article on this website in December. Our criticism of the legal tactics had to do with the concept of the “self-executing contract”, unsupported assertions and the use of biblical references rather than citations to prior court decisions. When it came time to sue the utility McNinch did not use any part of the “failsafe” legal strategy that she and the film producer had earlier promoted.

When Judge Nanci Grant issued her decision she denied McNinch’s motion for an injunction to restore her power. What the judge did NOT do, so far at any rate, is issue a declaration that changing one’s own meter is, per se, an illegal act as claimed in the Channel 7 news story. Instead she ruled that, in this case, McNinch had not presented facts or arguments sufficient to show that DTE should be compelled to restore her power after she substituted her own meter for theirs. The case is still open and a further ruling is possible.

If we labor all this now it is because we do not want others who might be thinking of a lawsuit against DTE to be in any way discouraged by the outcome in this case. We think that a well prosecuted case based on sound legal theory and verifiable facts has an excellent chance to win. We are just waiting now for just the right plaintiff to appear and we stand ready to provide whatever assistance we can!

 

 

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Michigan Smart Meter Appeal Hearing

Court of Appeals RotundaMark Your Calendar! The long awaited appeals of the DTE smart meter opt-out plan will be heard by the Court of Appeals in Lansing on January 13th, 2015 at 10 AM! It is important that we have as many as possible attend!

 Two appeals were filed June 14th, 2013 of the DTE opt-out plan approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission. Dissatisfaction with this opt-out plan focused on two primary issues:

a) the plan did not allow anyone to keep (or get back) their analog electric meter, and

b) the plan requires payment of extortionate “opt-out fees” which will prevent many from opting out and are only likely to be increased in future years.

Analog electric meters are the only kind that is accepted by most smart meter protesters. The reasons are that they cannot invade privacy by tracking household behavior minute by minute, because they do not emit microwave radiation and because they do not put low frequency “dirty electricity” on home wiring. DTE would have us believe that they are addressing our concerns by offering a “non-transmitting” smart meter as the opt-out meter. They are NOT. Two appeals were filed on June 14th, 2013 to try to overturn the May 15th, 2013 decision of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) that approved DTE’s “opt-out” program. These appeals have taken 19 months to reach the point where they can be heard and decided. They are:

The Edwards/Kurtz/Panzica appeal – issues as follows:

  • The MPSC effectively did mandate smart meters by its opt-out decision and lacked statutory authority to make such a mandate.
  • The opt-out decision cannot stand because there was no consideration of what benefits, if any, the so called opt-out meters provide the opt-out customers in exchange for the fees being imposed.

For a more detailed discussion of the issues raised by this appeal see the discussion at: http://smartmetereducationnetwork.com/optout-status-appeal-mpsc-decision.php.

The Dominic and Lillian Cusumano appeal – issues are as follows:

  • The scope of the MPSC hearings of DTE’s opt-out proposal was improperly limited by the administrative judge. No consideration was given to the type of meter to be offered opt-out customers, no attention to privacy concerns and no attention to the fact that many opt-out customers would be paying fees just to maintain the health they had before smart meters were deployed.
  • The administrative judge incorrectly applied a doctrine of “managerial prerogatives” to limit the jurisdiction of the MPSC regarding issues profoundly affecting the welfare, health and privacy of utility customers and the public.
  • Issues ruled “beyond the scope” in this case based on the notion they had been addressed in earlier MPSC cases had not, in fact, ever been addressed at all.
  • Appellants were denied the opportunity to establish an evidentiary foundation for their complaint that both the ‘smart meter’ and the ‘non-transmitting’ opt-out meter violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The two above appeals were consolidated into one for hearing purposes.

What will happen at this appeal hearing: A three judge panel will hear oral arguments for and against these appeals. Typically the judges take turns throwing questions out to be answered by the parties. In this case there will be attorneys representing DTE, attorneys representing the MPSC and attorneyKurt Koehler will be representing appellants in the first case (above). The second appeal was brought by the Cusumanos without benefit of an attorney and they will not be eligible to participate in oral argument. They must stand on their written briefs. It is likely however that some argument will be heard about their briefs since judges may wish to question the attorneys for DTE and MPSC with regard to the Cusumano appeal. Sometimes the type of questions judges pose give a clue, which way the judge is leaning. Sometimes not. A good way to get a sense of how this might go is to watch the video of the Maine Supreme Court hearing on smart meters on this website: https://michiganstopsmartmeters.com/2013/03/29/maine-supreme-court-hears-smart-meter-case/

What Are the Possible Outcomes:

1) The court may uphold the decision of the MPSC and deny both appeals.

2) The court may find that the decision was illegal because the MPSC exceeded the authority granted it by the legislature.

3) The court may find that the decision must be reversed because the scope was improperly limited by the MPSC so as to prevent building a record of competent evidence to support the decision. In this case the court would likely remand the case back to the MPSC for a do-over, with specific instructions about issues they must consider and types of evidence they must hear the second time around.

4) The court may find that the decision must be reversed and remanded to MPSC with instruction to consider what benefits, if any, the opt-out plan provides the opt-out customers.

 PLEASE COME AND SUPPORT US! THIS COULD BE A DAY OF VICTORY FOR ALL OF US WHO HAVE RESISTED THESE METERS! YOU WILL BE GLAD YOU WERE THERE TO SEE IT FIRST HAND!!!

Court Address:
2nd Floor, Hall of Justice
925 West Ottawa St.
Lansing, MI

 

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corruption graphicDecember 18, 2014 – Michigan Stop Smart Meters expresses its support for much of what was said in a recent editorial “Standing Up to the Sleaze and Rot That Kills” posted by stopsmartmeters.org in California.

(image courtesy of hin255 at freedigitalphotos.net

While there are parts of that editorial that promote a world view with which we do not agree, below are quotes from that piece with which we particularly DO agree:

“The attack on public health and safety and the highway robbery the smart grid represents is not the result of some “misunderstanding” or “lack of information.”

“All of this is intentional and it will only stop when the criminals behind the program are forced to stop.  If a PUC commissioner suddenly woke up and realized the truth and started to actively challenge the system, the system would have them removed.  No question.  Commissioners are vetted carefully for any hint of rebellion before they are appointed.”

“Activists trying (in many cases valiantly and at great personal and financial sacrifice) have seen how fruitless it is to try and get one government agency to censure another, when the stakes are as high as a trillion dollar industry driving the global economy.”

What are the alternatives?  Are we doomed to submit comments to be ignored at the PUC and accept the consequences of smart grid proliferation?  Spend thousands of dollars on lawsuits just to be tossed out of court by corrupt, system-loyal judges?”

“Watch as our friends and families and perhaps ourselves get sick and die of cancer?  As our homes burn down at 3am and the utility blames the wiring?  As we are disconnected one by one from essential services because we refuse to agree to pay not to be harmed?”

“What we need is a resistance movement that protects environmental health and safety by whatever means necessary.   A group of committed individuals who will stand up against state power and refuse to back down- no matter what- in the face of injustice.  Yes we need the intelligent, well-informed critiques of current policy to spread awareness and provide fodder for those willing to take the time to analyze the truth (and lies) behind these industry documents.  But intellectual debate and discussion- or even active awareness raising campaigns- are not going to win it alone.”

What then do we do?  Your comments please.

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Michigan_state_capitol
DON’T MISS THIS!!!

Tuesday,
December 2nd, 2014.

Smart Meter Hearing before the House Oversight Committee. Other events planned for earlier in the day.

If you can attend only the hearing come at 3 pm to Room 519 in the Anderson House Office Buildingat 124 North Capitol Avenue (across the street from the Capitol Building). Come to speak or come just to show your support! This will be an opportunity for all of us who have concerns about smart electric meters to come and have our say before a legislative committee.

It is also an opportunity to submit evidence or documents for consideration by the Committee.  Be sure to bring 30 copies of anything you plan to submit. Your presence at the hearing will help to show the legislators that there is strong support for our positions.  If possible wear something red (or wear a red ribbon that will be available at the door).  This hearing will be videotaped and may be up on the Committee website later.

This Committee is chaired by Rep Tom McMillin. It can only begin its hearing after the House session (across the street) ends. So actual starting time could be anywhere from 3 pm to 5 pm.  Upon arrival, check in with guard.  If the hearing room is not yet open when you arrive, congregate with others in the lobby on the main floor until the room opens. It is most important that we have as many as possible – particularly during the first hour of the hearing when news media will be present.

Tom has assured us that this hearing will run as long as necessary to give every person a chance to speak for the record!  Hearing may run late into the evening.

We particularly want your testimony on the record if you have been made ill by a smart meter, can no longer sleep in your own bed, had your power shutoff or been threatened with shutoff of your power for refusing to take a smart meter. Your input also needed if you have sought redress for any of these grievances from the Public Service Commission and been denied their help! The Chairman of the Public Service Commission has been invited as have representatives from DTE and Consumers Energy. We are hopeful that large numbers of you will come and make your voices heard!  If you have doctor’s letters or other written evidence you want submitted to the record, please be sure to bring 15 copies 30 copies for submission to the Committee.

The Purpose of this Hearing: Everyone should understand that the McMillin smart meter bill is still stuck in the House Energy Committee and will almost certainly die at the end of the year. This hearing, on the other hand, will be about establishing a record of evidence concerning the smart meter issues and the failure of the Public Service Commission in addressing those issues.  It has at least the possibility of leading to bills to be introduced in the next session of the legislature beginning in January. It is also a good opportunity for us to get our concerns reported by the press.

Official Things To Bring (30 copies of each for Committee):
Doctor’s letters
DTE shut off notices or threatening notices
Records of calls or threatening phone calls
Records of encounters with DTE
Anything you have to tell your story or substantiate your claims
Letters or literature for house representative and senators

Other Activities Planned for That Day: If you are planning on coming for the hearing you may also want to come earlier in the day and join us for other protest activity planned by Pam Wallace and Dee Hilbert.  If you come at noon that day you can join us for a demonstration in front of the Capitol building.  The Capitol building is at 110 South Capitol Avenue (at the corner of Capitol Ave and Michigan Ave) Please bring a sign and wear warm clothing. In the morning some of us will be in the Senate lobby having our Senator called out of session by the Sergeant at Arms to talk with us about smart meter legislation.  In the early afternoon some of us will be in the House lobby having our Representative called out of session by the Sergeant at Arms to talk about smart meters.

RSVP: Please help Pam and Dee by sending an RSVP to them to let them know you will be attending the event/hearing, if you plan to testify and how many people you plan to have with you.- thank you. pamandandy22@yahoo.com or kipdee@wowway.com

If you plan to join us for the full day of activities please be sure to bring water, food and a snack. Tom has arranged for us to have Room 426 in the Capitol building to gather during the day. The room will allow us to rest, warm up and visit during our time at the Capitol. Here is the schedule for those who will be with us all day:

9:30:  meet in Lansing at the state capital. Check in with guard who will direct you to Room 426 reserved for us by Rep Tom McMillin.
10:00: smart meter rally at the state capital with themed signs and information to pass out to senators as they enter the capital for session.
10:00-12:15: pull out your senator from session to share your concerns about smart meters and request help and protective legislation.
12:15 meet at Room 426 in Capitol building.
12:30: smart meter rally at the state capital with themed signs and information to pass out to our state representatives as they enter the capital for session.
12:30-3:00: pull out your state representative from session to share your concerns about smart meters and request help and protective legislation.
3:00/4:45 and on: smart meter hearing will be held at the Anderson House office building (directly across from the capital) in Room 519. The hearing will begin right after the house session and the start time will range anytime from 3:00-4:45.
If you plan to take part in these activities all day it will be important to bring water, food and a snack.  Also bring a sign to carry for our outdoor demonstrations.
Themes And Messages
Our themes for our rally signs and for our talks with legislators are:
I Am Sick Because Of My Smart Meter
Smart Meters Are Making People Sick
Smart Meters Cause Fires
Oregon, Washington, Maine and Vermont Have Analog Opt- Outs- Michigan Wants An Analog Opt-Out Too!
I Am Living Without Power-DTE Shut My Power Off
DTE Is Threatening To Shut Off My Power
I Had To Leave My Home Due To A Smart Meter
What Are You Going To Do To Help Us?
When Are You Going To Help Us?
Smart Meters Are An Invasion Of Privacy
The World Heath Organization Has Classified Smart Meter Radiation As a Type 2 Carcinogen. They Are Not Safe.

Capitol overview

 

Directions to Capitol from Detroit area:  Take I 96 to I 496 West, then exit 7A service drive to right turn on Grand Ave (headed north 1-way) to left turn on Ottawa (headed west 1-way) to left turn on Walnut Street (headed south) to left turn on Allegan Street (headed east 1-way) to parking structure on Allegan street. You will be right next to Capitol and 1 block from the Anderson House Office Building.

Capitol detail

 

 

 

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March 16th, 2012 – In their responses today to the MPSC Order, both DTE and Consumers Energy fail to present a concrete smart meter opt-out proposal.   On February 17th, DTE spokesman Len Singer was quoted in Michigan Tech News as stating that his company would provide an opt-out proposal “in a filing next month”.  A spokesman for Consumers made a similar statement.   Instead both companies now say they will present such a proposal as part of the rate setting process (no estimated date) and that any such proposal shall require the opt-out customers to bear a whole laundry list of possible costs that may be occasioned by their opting out.

The MPSC had given the public a month following the utility company submissions to express their comments.  Yet we find that our month will almost certainly be up long before we learn of any concrete opt-out proposal.  And it was the issue of opt-out, more than any single other issue, that caused the Commission to open this docket in response to the repeated urging of municipal governments.

The utilities justify their long list of potential opt-out charges because of PA286 (2008), MCL 460.6, which requires no subsidy for any class of customers

What is NOT mentioned is a whole laundry list of special costs, not needed to maintain basic electricity service, which will be occasioned in order to supply certain other customers with the alleged ‘benefits’ of smart meter technology.  IF OPT-OUT CUSTOMERS ARE TO BEAR ANY EXTRA COSTS NEEDED TO SERVICE THEM, SHOULD THEY NOT, BY THE SAME TOKEN, BE SPARED ALL THE EXTRA COSTS THE UTILITY INCURS TO SERVICE THE CLASS OF CUSTOMERS WHO CHOOSE TO ENJOY THE ALLEGED ‘BENEFITS’ OF THE AMI SYSTEM?

Now the utility will no doubt argue that “Advanced Metering Infrastructure” (AMI) is now their “standard platform” and that those customers who wish to deviate from the “standard platform” should bear any additional costs involved.  But wait a minute – what gave the utility the right to create a platform that goes way beyond its traditional function of providing electrical energy and then call that the “standard”?  Did the marketplace give them that right?  Clearly not.  No evidence has been presented by either company that any research was done before deployment to see if customers wanted this new technology.  There is no evidence we have seen that any utility customers ever asked for these AMI features or that any have expressed their appreciation for these features once they got their ‘smart’ meter.

Did the MPSC give the utilities the right to make AMI their standard platform.  We have been repeatedly informed that MPSC made no such decision.  Rather the MPSC’s repeatedly stated position has been that “we do not interfere with the utility’s business practices”.

Did federal legislation give them that right?  Again the answer is no.  The “Energy Act of 2005” and the “Energy Independence Act of 2008” both specified that smart meters were to be ‘voluntary’.  Yet nobody has been asked to ‘volunteer’ to date.

So it would appear that DTE and Consumers have taken it upon themselves to adopt AMI as their standard.  In so doing they have brought into being a product without a market.  Yet those of us, including the majority of all utility customers, who never asked for or wanted this technology, are to be forced to pay for its costs.  Their plan evidently is that ALL their customers pay the AMI costs and then those who opt out of it should also pay the costs of opting out of it, while enjoying none of the supposed benefits of AMI.

We think a much more appropriate and just allocation of costs would be for all utility customers to be given a clear choice between AMI and traditional service.  Then those who choose the AMI service should pay any extra costs occasioned by their choice – including the cost of the smart meters, the labor to install them, the costs of radio receivers on the poles, the costs of the whole new main office system that communicates with these new meters and so on.  None of these costs should be borne by those who opt to maintain their traditional service.

Then the utility could clearly say they are not asking either class of customers to subsidize the other class – in conformity with Public Act 286.

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February 18, 2012 – In an interview which appeared today in MiTechNews.com, DTE spokesperson Len Singer said the utility will propose, in a filing with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) next month, an opt-out provision for customers.  He indicated that his company recognizes this is an “extremely emotional issue” for some, but that the company still believes the meters are safe and has no plan to halt or slow down ongoing installations.

A spokesman for Consumers also stated that his company will propose an opt-out in a filing due next month under the terms of the MPSC Order that opened the current investigation.  This company plans to start installations of the new meters this summer.

No details are available as yet regarding either company’s opt-out proposals – such as what the alternative to the smart meter would be, who would be eligible or what fees, if any, might be charged for not accepting the smart meter.

There is much that remains to be accomplished.  We still think the MPSC needs to conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation of the possible health effects of these new meters and the ‘mesh networks’ required to operate them.  We also think the Commission needs to declare a moratorium on any further smart meter installations until such a health study has been completed.

We believe it is as important as ever that the legislature enact some smart meter protections for the public.  There are fundamental social and moral issues – including health, privacy and property rights.  These are not just details that should be worked out by a regulatory commission that seems more comfortable when dealing only with rate issues.

Still we think that today’s announcement  represents a major breakthrough.  We are cautiously optimistic.

Click here to read the source article.