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AN EXCELLENT BILL THAT NEEDS A TWEAK
(Revised 2/27/17)

by David Sheldon

February 25th, 2017 Last Tuesday we filled the hearing room and much of the overflow room of the House Energy Committee. This was the first of two hearings for testimony on House Bill 4220, the proposed law that would guarantee meter choice to utility customers. energymtg2-02212017The second meeting on the bill will take place March 7th at 9 am, again in the House Office Building, Room 517, 124 North Capitol Avenue, Lansing, at 9 am. We urge as many as possible to attend this hearing as well.

WATCH 90 MINUTE VIDEO OF THE MEETING HERE!

The meeting began with a very strong presentation by Chairman Glenn, the bill sponsor, as to why his proposed legislation is needed. Glenn stressed “this is not a technical bill” and “does not require Committee members to have technical knowledge” of the utility business. It is, he stated, a “philosophical bill” that only requires a simple recognition that people should have control of what is done on their property. He said it is “none of our business” why people don’t want the advanced meters, whether it be privacy, health or something else.

This was followed by a number of spirited presentations by advocates for the bill that covered the health, privacy and fire issues. Included were presentations by electrical engineer William Bathgate, by retired fire chief Duane Roddy and by former Rep Tom McMillin who had chaired the smart meter hearing two years ago. Many who had signed up to speak were unable to do so in the limited time and may get their chance at the March 7th continuation of hearings on this bill. As it is possible there will again not be time for all to speak, we recommend taking your written comments or exhibits to the hearing with 25 copies to hand out. If you are not able to attend the hearing you may submit your comments by email to the Committee Clerk, kgawronski@house.mi.gov

We are optimistic about what this bill will do. The bill respects property rights and freedom of choice for utility customers. If passed in its present form it will allow utility customers to choose whether or not to give up privacy in order to gain other touted benefits of the new technology. The bill, as written, will also allow every customer who had a smart meter installed before the effective date of this legislation, to have that meter removed and replaced with a traditional meter – all at no charge. That would cover nearly all of the 3 million plus smart meters already installed. Going forward, the $150 smart meter removal fee could only be charged to customers who agreed to take a smart meter and then changed their mind after it was installed. The bill also will eliminate ongoing monthly opt-out fees for all customers who are willing to report their own meter readings.

We must acknowledge the contribution of another smart meter leader who has pointed out, correctly, that a certain ambiguity in the present language of the bill could allow some utilities to claim that digital electronic meters they were installing long before smart meters are, in some sense, “traditional”, and thereby satisfy the requirements of the legislation. While this is a concern to many of us, our legislative process provides opportunities to remove these ambiguities. Some of us who will testify on March 7th will raise this issue but we hope none will forget to emphasize what is right with the bill and our appreciation for the efforts and risks legislators have taken to bring it to this point.

At this critical time, we need to focus on building momentum for a bill that resolves many of our issues. We have lived too long without a bill that will protect us. Let’s work hard together right now to get the bill passed.

Hearings on this bill will continue on March 7th at 9 am. Consumers Energy was expecting to testify at this hearing but time ran out so that they are now scheduled to be first up at the next hearing.

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The Chairman of the Michigan Public Service Commission will be making an extended presentation to the Energy Committee on February 28th. There are several proposed laws before the Energy Committee now in which MPSC has an interest. Keep in mind that the reason for our present predicament is the deceptive conduct and miserable failure of her agency to protect the utility customers. She will try to defend her agency’s performance. She might include in her testimony the view of her agency on our proposed smart meter bill. It may be worthwhile for any of our movement who can do so to attend that hearing also and to sign up to make a short public comment expressing our frustration with how her agency has dealt with us.

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PARKING INFORMATION:

Townsend parking ramp – at corner of Capitol and Allegan streets.
This one is the closest – 2 block walk to House Office Bldg, but sometimes this ramp is open to permit holders only.
http://mi-lansing.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Townsend-Ramp-120

North Capitol parking ramp, 316 North Capitol Ave
This one is 2 blocks north of House Office Bldg.
http://mi-lansing.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/North-Capitol-Ramp-119

South Capitol parking ramp, 320 South Capitol Ave
This one is 4 blocks south of House Office Bldg.
http://mi-lansing.civicplus.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/South-Capitol-Ramp-118

On street (metered parking) – is available on a number of streets near House Office Bldg. But there is a 2 hour time limit and rate is $1.25/hour.

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February 20th, 2017
by Lola Killey

We are nearing a moment in history that we have all been waiting for – hearings at the Michigan House of Representatives Energy Committee on an analog meter choice bill that could move the bill out of committee and onto the House Floor for a vote. The bill is HB 4220. The hearing is this coming Tuesday, February 21, at 9:00 AM in Lansing in the Anderson Building, 5th Floor. The positive momentum is due to the efforts of several of our legislators, legislative staff, and the legislative service bureau. In particular, we are very grateful to Representatives Glenn, Lucido, Howrylak, McCready, Barrett, Liberati, Zemke, Runestad, Hernandez, Allor, Kelly, Canfield, Noble, Hornberger, Hoitenga, Wentworth, Garrett and Robinson for supporting and sponsoring the bill. We are also grateful to Nancy Bareham, aide to Representative Kelly, for her hard work, and to Senator Colbeck for his support on the prior bill, HB 4916.

HB 4220 is the replacement of HB 4916. The text of HB 4220 is exactly the same as HB 4916. A new number was assigned to the bill because of the new committee being formed this year. Analog meter choice advocates have pushed hard to get an analog meter choice bill out of committee for years. The beginning of the bill states:

A UTILITY CUSTOMER MAY CHOOSE BETWEEN THE

PLACEMENT OR USE OF A TRADITIONAL METER OR AN ADVANCED METER REGARDLESS OF THE UTILITY THAT PROVIDES SERVICE TO THAT CUSTOMER.

Near the end, the bill states:

“TRADITIONAL METER” MEANS AN ANALOG OR SIMILAR METER THAT IS UNABLE TO TRANSMIT USAGE INFORMATION AND IS ONLY INTENDED TO BE READ BY AN INDIVIDUAL THROUGH A VISUAL DISPLAY. A TRADITIONAL METER IS NOT DESIGNED TO BE AND IS NOT CAPABLE OF TRANSMITTING USAGE DATA BY USING RADIO WAVES OR BROADBAND OVER POWER LINES, ALLOWING 2-WAY COMMUNICATION BETWEEN THE METER AND THE UTILITY OR ITS AGENTS, OR ALLOWING A UTILITY OR ITS AGENTS TO CONTROL A CUSTOMER’S THERMOSTAT, APPLIANCE, OR SERVICE. A TRADITIONAL METER DOES NOT INCLUDE AN ADVANCED METER THAT HAS CERTAIN FUNCTIONALITY TURNED OFF OR DEACTIVATED.

We interpret above sections together as giving utility customers the analog meter choice we want for the meters placed on our homes.

Please join us in the effort to get this bill passed. We need every voice to support this bill in its entirety at this moment in time. We cannot afford at this moment in time to pick and choose different language, or interpret it negatively. We need positive support, positive momentum, and a positive outcome. For that to happen, we need every voice to support our legislators and those who are helping them. Please call your representative and tell them that you support HB 4220, and either thank them for their support, or ask them to support it as well – 100%! THANK YOU!

 

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by David Sheldon

As previously announced, there will be a hearing in Lansing on HB 4220 sponsored by Rep Gary Glenn with 17 cosponsors. This is the smart meter legislation we have been waiting for. If passed, it will absolutely address the privacy issue for all utility customers and should go a long way toward addressing health issues experienced by some. We owe thanks to Rep Glenn and the cosponsors for going out on a limb to support this legislation. Now they need us to show our support if the bill is to have a chance to pass first the Energy Committee, and then the full house.

We are putting out this update to answer an impression in another newsletter that the legislation is somehow fatally flawed. It is not. That writer had a bold headline stating “New Bill Currently Does Not Require Utilities to Offer an Analog Meter Choice!” Still later the writer opines “If this bill is passed as it now reads, we have not won anything!” This, in my judgment, does an injustice to the drafters and supporters of the bill who have worked hard and taken risks to bring smart meter legislation to this point.

 The point of the newsletter was that the definition of “traditional meter” was not nailed down as tight as it might have been, allowing for the possibility that a utility might be able to construe a meter with a digital display, but containing no smart meter features, as being in compliance with the proposed law. It is far from certain that the proposed legislation would be so interpreted, but it is a possibility. Even were that to happen, so many of the problems with the new meters would have been solved!

 While any legislation might contain some feature that could be improved with the benefit of hindsight, the fact remains that this legislation would guarantee to all utility customers the right to say NO! No to a smart meter and no to a smart meter with the radio (allegedly) turned off. No to surveillance of personal activities. And No to paying an initial or monthly fee for that right, so long as the customer cooperates by sending in his or her own meter readings!  And perhaps best of all that protection extends to electric, gas and water meters!

So let us all get on up to Lansing on Tuesday morning, February 21st at 9 am, or at the follow-up meeting on March 7th. Let us express our appreciation and our support for this bill!

 

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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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Analysis by David Sheldon
(July 19th, 2015)

On July 15th, 2015, a decision was handed down by the Michigan Court of Appeals that, if not appealed, will severely constrain the rights of all Michigan utility customers. This article is written, in part, as a response to an inaccurate and misleading article published a few days ago on another smart meter website. Sadly that article unfairly characterized the efforts of a couple to defend themselves against utility bullying and implied that, if only they had hired a good lawyer, the outcome would have been different.

We know there are thousands of you, in southeastern Michigan alone, who have resisted the forced installation of a “smart” electric meter. Many of you have locked your meter enclosures or otherwise limited access by utility installers bent on replacing your traditional meters.

Thousands of others who have the new smart meters are now suffering serious health effects that limit them in the use and enjoyment of their homes. The universal experience has been that, once a smart meter is installed, the utility will not remove it for any reason. At least 20 families that we know of have found it necessary to resort to self help in order to rid themselves of an intrusive and life limiting device.

Such was the case for Ralph and Donna Stenman of Farmington Hills. In early 2012, after pleading with DTE to remove a smart meter that was making Donna ill, the couple finally resorted to removing the offending device themselves and replacing it with an industry standard calibrated analog meter. The smart meter itself was in no way tampered with. It was simply removed from the meter housing (owned by the homeowner) and safely returned to DTE.

The utility objected that the meter the couple installed was not an approved device. The couple responded that DTE was welcome to replace it at any time with an analog meter of their own specifications. The utility responded with threats and repeated attempts to re-install the smart meter. The Stenmans believed they had no choice but to notify the utility that any access to their meter would have to be by appointment only and under supervised conditions. The result was that DTE sued the Stenmans seeking, among other things, an injunction that would command the couple to allow DTE installers to enter upon their property for the purpose of re-installing the smart meter.

The lawsuit was heard by Oakland Circuit Judge Rudy Nichols in the fall of 2012. The couple wound up representing themselves after approaching a number of attorneys who refused to take the case, stating either that it was hopeless to go up against a utility or that DTE would bankrupt them if they took the case. A preliminary hearing was scheduled with DTE asking for a summary judgment.

In preparation for that hearing much research was done on the law to determine what sort of evidence the couple would need. Michigan Stop Smart Meters provided assistance. The couple filed a formal response to the suit, explaining why the smart meter had to be removed, and providing an affidavit from a doctor that an identical smart meter installed on another home had caused severe illness. Also presented was a government document explaining how these meters would invade privacy and that they should be installed only with consent of the homeowner. The couple fully expected that this preliminary evidence would be enough that the judge would schedule a trial. Instead, in December of 2012, the judge granted DTE a summary judgment with no opportunity for the couple to present any further evidence.

Judge Nichols stated in his decision that the Stenmans had not met their burden to present evidence showing that, if a trial were held, they had a reasonable chance to prevail. Yet another Oakland Circuit Judge had heard an identical lawsuit by DTE against another couple a month earlier, been presented with the identical evidence, and found that evidence sufficient to warrant scheduling a trial. Judge Nichols also ignored the fact that DTE had not presented any evidence that their smart device had ever been authorized by either the legislature or the Michigan Public Service Commission. The law is clear that a summary judgment is only legal when there are no material facts in controversy. The law is also clear that any ambiguity in the factual situation must be resolved in favor of the non moving party – in this case the Stenmans. Judge Nichols decision was clearly contrary to law.

An appeal was filed. The Stenmans filed their appeal brief without benefit of an attorney. The wheels of justice turn slowly. It took from December of 2012 until June of 2015 for oral argument to be scheduled. The Stenmans finally found an attorney to represent them at the oral argument. Some of you had the opportunity to hear that.

On July 15th a decision was finally issued that upheld Judge Nichols’ decision in all respects and provided no relief to the Stenmans. In reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeals found that:

  1. That even though the burden of proving the necessary elements of a complaint always (by law) falls on the plaintiff, that burden can be cast, when convenient, upon the defendant.
  2. That, although DTE had never presented any evidence, or even an assertion, that their smart meters were lawful, these meters were nonetheless lawful.
  3. That, even though the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) had no jurisdiction to tell a privately owned utility what kind of meters to use(*), the MPSC nevertheless had the authority to authorize the new smart meters, and the utility could rely on that authority to force installation of the new meters.
  4. That, even though a private utility is required to have its rules and conditions of service approved by the MPSC, and no such approval had actually been given for the utility to make smart meters a condition of service, that the utility could, nonetheless, mandate smart meters.
  5. That, even though the MPSC has consistently refused to hold any evidentiary hearings on the possible health dangers of smart meters, they were entitled to conclude, as a matter of law, that health effects of smart meters are negligible.
  6. That, even though the “opt-out” plan offered by DTE allows nobody to avoid having a smart meter and was not even an available plan when the Stenmans resorted to self help, this plan is cited as one of the reasons Judge Nichols was justified in his ruling.
  7. That even though there is no practical alternative to DTE service for most people in southeastern Michigan, nonetheless being a DTE customer is “voluntary”.
  8. That even though evidence was provided the court that an identical smart meter had made a child severely ill, this did not constitute evidence that it might endanger the lives of an elderly couple.
  9. That even though the issue of the “opt-out” plan being an opt-out in name only was fully discussed in the Stenmans’ original pleadings before Judge Nichols, the Court of Appeals finds that this issue was not raised in the trial court.
  10. That, although the Stenmans provided an official publication of the U.S. government in which the National Institute for Standards and Technology concluded that smart meters will violate the privacy of homeowners wherever they are installed, the Court of Appeals finds that such concerns with privacy are merely “conjectural and hypothetical”, and that there has been no showing of “actual or imminent harm”. Therefore the Stenmans “have no standing” to raise the Fourth Amendment issue.

Whether one reaches this point fully represented by an attorney or reaches it through one’s own efforts makes little difference in the end.

What we see in this Appeals Court decision is not respect for or observance of law. What we see is a politically motivated decision based on the idea that nothing should get in the way of the smart grid agenda. Or that nothing should get in the way of powerful interest groups.

This is not to say that our legal system is hopeless or that we shouldn’t try to defend our rights through lawful means. Not every panel of the Court of Appeals will be as unreasonable as this one, and not every trial judge will be as unreasonable as Judge Nichols.

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* Another panel of this same Court of Appeals so ruled in March, 2015 in the case of Cusumano v. MPSC.

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David_O_Carpenter_from_the_University_at_AlbanyGives very strong and credible testimony on the health problems caused by “smart” meters in DTE’s current rate case.

July 6th, 2015

We were and are convinced that having the testimony of a highly credible and seasoned professional could help us strike a blow against “smart” meters in this rate case. More importantly the testimony will help us to make our case before the legislature and for our upcoming battles with DTE in the regular courts.

DTE brought the current rate case to the Michigan Public Service Commission. In this case, U-17767, DTE is seeking across the board rate increases for most of its services but also requesting the Commission to approve continued customer funding of “smart meters.”

Dr. Carpenter is known in professional circles all over the world. He is known for his view that smart meters represent a real threat to the health of utility customers. Dr. Carpenter was the leader of a group of 45 doctors and scientists who signed the “Toronto Statement” warning of the dangers of smart meters in 2012. He was one of the authors of the Bio-initiative Report and about 350 articles that have been published in peer reviewed journals. He is currently the Director of the Institute for Health and the Environment, State University of New York at Albany.

The doctor generously contributed his time for this case, asking only to be reimbursed for his out-of-pocket expenses for travel from New York. Even so, Michigan Stop Smart Meters is out about $1000 for the trip expenses so that we need to appeal to you, our fellow smart meter activists. You all now have a better shot at keeping a smart meter off your own homes because of the facts this doctor got on the record this week!

In accordance with the Commission’s normal procedures, all witnesses submit their direct testimony in written form many weeks prior to a hearing. They are required to be present at the hearing so that opposing parties may cross-examine them on that testimony. Dr. Carpenter’s cross-examination gave him an opportunity to make his written testimony come alive and to establish his credibility with the judge as a seasoned and highly credible professional.

Our thanks go to all of you activists, who made the trip from Detroit to Lansing to show support for our issue and for the doctor’s testimony. About half the people in the room were activists known to us. The other half were MPSC staff people, including all of the ones directly involved in the planning of smart grid.

Our thanks also go to smart meter activist Richard Meltzer, who conducted the primary cross-examination of the doctor, lasting more than two hours. This was necessary because we had advance indications that the attorneys for DTE and MPSC staff were going to waive cross. We think they made that choice in hopes of denying the doctor an opportunity to establish his bona fides. As it turned out DTE did not cross and staff’s cross was limited to about 3 questions. But their strategy ultimately failed because of Richard’s outstanding questions.

Richard was allowed only to ask questions designed to clarify the original testimony, not to expand on it. There were many objections from the attorneys for DTE and MPSC staff. Despite all the objections we wound up getting more than enough of the critical facts developed on the record. DTE and staff did not put any evidence into the record that would establish that smart meters do not cause harm.

In the end what we got on the record was that smart meters will adversely impact about 5% of the population almost immediately following installation, and are likely to cause cancers or neurological illnesses in the long run for a much larger share of the public. We got on record that the first cause of harm is the pulse modulation of the microwave radio carrier. This makes smart meters very different than am or fm radio broadcasting. We also got on record the fact these meters, even with radio off, put dirty electricity on the wiring of homes and businesses. This is critical because it shows that the so called “opt-out” meter DTE is offering is no true opt-out at all!

Michigan Stop Smart Meters asks you to consider if you are not better off because we finally got some real testimony on the record. This event set us back about $1000. Some have already made generous contributions. If you can send in a contribution of $100, $50, $25 or whatever you can afford, we will be made whole for the expense of this event. Any excess of contributions that come in will put us in a position to undertake other projects to advance the goals we all share of protecting our health and our privacy and forcing DTE to stop the bullying.

Please mail contributions to:

Michigan Stop Smart Meters
215 West Troy #4004
Ferndale, MI 48220