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by David Sheldon

February 1st, 2018 –t DTE customer Tom Mitchell had a motion hearing before an administrative judge at the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC). The hearing room was filled to capacity. Purpose of the hearing was not to hear evidence on the merits of Tom’s formal complaint against electric utility DTE, but to rule on whether Tom’s case could go forward, or be dismissed as both DTE and MPSC staff were requesting. Purpose was also to rule on two motions Tom had submitted, one to set the scope of the case and one to allow out-of-state witnesses to testify via Skype.

Tom had requested a formal hearing on his complaint that DTE had threatened him with shutoff for not agreeing to accept either the standard smart meter or the smart meter with radio turned off. Tom has a heart condition known as atrial fibrillation and has an affidavit from his personal physician that having an electronic meter on his home could harm his health and even possibly cause his death. Tom believes that, under this circumstance, DTE must provide accommodation by allowing him and all others with a similar documented health condition to keep the traditional analog meter.

Administrative judge Lauren Van Steel conducted the hearing, appeared to be a good listener and also asked some hardball questions of both the DTE attorney and the attorney representing MPSC staff. At the conclusion she took all three motions under advisement. She is expected to issue her decision sometime within the next week or two.

Tom had planned to have this writer assist in the presentation, but the judge insisted that since Tom was appearing without an attorney, that he must present his case without assistance. Tom did a fantastic job!

Incredibly, the attorney for MPSC staff argued that all possible health issues had already been addressed in the 2012 report by staff and that there could never be a legitimate reason to take another look at the opt-out policy from a health standpoint, despite there never having been an evidentiary hearing on the health issues. The judge did NOT appear to be buying this line.

If she decides to let Tom’s case proceed, a new date will be set for the evidentiary hearing. This would be the one where testimony would be taken from Tom’s personal physician, experts on the dirty electricity issue and from DTE’s witnesses.

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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.”

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DECEMBER 16TH – CALIFORNIA ISSUES CAUTION ON CELL PHONE USE – by Olga Naidenko Ph.D.

This week, California officially issued groundbreaking guidelines advising cell phone users to keep phones away from their bodies and limit use when reception is weak. State officials caution that studies link radiation from long-term cell phone use to an increased risk of brain cancer, lower sperm counts and other health problems, and note that children’s developing brains could be at greater risk.

The state Department of Public Health was forced to release the guidelines in March after a lawsuit by University of California, Berkeley, researcher Dr. Joel Moskowitz. At the time, the department said the guidelines were only a draft, but they now are the state’s official position. The DPH guidelines closely align with EWG’s Guide to Safer Cell Phone Use, published in 2016.  MORE

PLEASE SEE OUR HOME PAGE HERE AND CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION TO MICHIGAN STOP SMART METERS TO HELP US GET THE WORD OUT SO MORE PEOPLE WILL CONTACT THEIR STATE LEGISLATOR AND URGE PASSAGE OF HOUSE BILL 4220 THAT WILL GIVE PEOPLE A MEANINGFUL WAY TO OPT-OUT WITHOUT PAYING EXTORTIONATE FEES!!!

 

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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!

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Stand Your Ground Bravely, But Know the Cost
by David Sheldon

We are receiving many calls from folks who have received a warning letter from DTE Energy, advising that their electricity will be turned off on or after a date certain – unless they agree to take a smart meter and remove any locks or impediments. Such letters are going out to people who have notified the utility of health issues that would be greatly aggravated by a smart meter, with radio on or off. Such letters are going out to people who have made known their objections on grounds of Fourth Amendment violations. The utility’s shutoff notices are outrageous and unconscionable. The latest twist is that many are receiving an offer of $50 if they will call and agree to take a new meter before a certain date. Whether you choose to hold out to the end or take a meter under duress, we would hope, at least, that nobody will take the $50 “gift”. Such an acceptance would amount to tacit consent to install a smart meter. Such offers are only made to folks who have braved many prior notices and warning letters. Those folks should not trivialize their resistance by equating It to $50.

Smart Meter Education Network has been urging all of us who receive these shutoff  notices to stand our ground. In their recent newsletter it is very well explained how helpful it is to our movement when people continue to say “NO” right up to DTE’s deadline and beyond. People who passively acquiesce to a smart meter installation, even after years of resistance, do not get the attention of legislators or the media. People who actually have their electricity turned off, especially in winter, do get the attention of legislators and the media.

In most cases, where people called the next day requesting a turn-on and accepting a smart meter installation under duress, they had to wait about a week before power was restored. That is the cost of continued resistance. If you can bear that cost, we applaud you for your unflinching loyalty to the cause. That choice will help us, no doubt about that. Just be sure that you do have a plan, however, including somewhere you can go to stay warm, a way to keep the pipes from freezing, a way or a place to cook, a way to preserve food and medicines, and so forth. Your plan should include meeting the needs of all family members, including the elderly and children. And if you take this ultimate course, please send a letter or email to Senator Colbeck and to Rep Gary Glenn, as they can use your situation to persuade other legislators to pass HB 4220, our meter choice legislation.

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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.

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Based on the YouTube presentation by
Josh del Sol
and Cal Washington
by Warren Woodward
October 14th, 2017

Please be aware that what I have to say is nothing personal against Josh del Sol or anyone else featured in the youtube. I have no personal grudges or axes to grind. But I do have a working BS detector.

Josh is a good filmmaker. Take Back Your Power was a great, fact-based tool for awakening people. But this one — and I will back this up with specifics — is propaganda. I would love for the theory it espouses to work, but I don’t think it will or has.

I am going to go through the YouTube InPower presentation now in the order that various things were presented.

The video gets off to a bad start when Cal Washington makes the point that one of the basic InPower premises is that, by switching to smart meters (SMs), the utility has changed the contract they have with you. That’s both right and wrong. Technically he is right because what they have installed is not a meter. It’s a transceiver and computer. I have made that point repeatedly here in AZ for years. I have proved it with an exploded conceptual rendering of a SM from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that shows metering to be 1/5 of what a SM is. I have proved it by providing documentation that the IRS classifies smart meters as computers. I have proved it by providing the Congressional testimony of utility exec. Bennett Gaines saying SMs are computers. But guess what? In the “real” world, to the utility and PUC type people, it’s a meter. They won’t budge off that. If you accept service from the utility, you accept their equipment. Period.

Cal says that Kevin Lynch resigned on the day he got a Notice of Liability. This is supposed to be huge because Kevin holds the most senior non-political office in the gov. of Canada, Clerk of the Privy Council. Now this is something we will see throughout the YouTube: A news article is put on screen (11:17) and most of it is greyed out, with what Josh wants to emphasize lightened up and highlighted. But if you read the grey it says that “there has been much speculation in the civil service that he wanted out.” From my perspective, that’s a lot different than Cal’s exclamation at the end of the sequence that “He ran!” And again, this is something we will see a lot of in the YouTube: Drawing a false cause and effect relationship between Notices sent and people resigning or not seeking re-election. What we should be looking at is if policy changes, not if someone resigns or does not seek re-election.

Carol Taylor — Another person who resigned, supposedly because she received a Notice. But if you read the greyed out part the reason given is “So she can focus on her new job of chairing a federal economic advisory panel.” She has not been knocked out of the game. People like her make those kind of career moves all the time.

Cal talked about a judge he had running out of the courtroom. The bailiff (or sheriff or whoever was running the court) then says “All rise. I guess we’re having a break.” The problem is, Cal just leaves it at that. What happened after the break is not divulged. Outcome of the case not divulged. Maybe the Judge had a bathroom emergency. Who knows? One upshot was that Cal got arrested a year later, that he made sound as though it was some kind of revenge (and may well have been) for driving without insurance, and he spent 60 days in jail. Cal then talked about what happened after he got out and went to court again. Long story short, we are titillated with a $300M demand he put on the judge but the outcome of that is not divulged. It is left open ended. We don’t know what happened. And I don’t know about you, but I have better things to do than spend 60 days in jail. I’ve been there a couple times overnight. That was enough.

Kevin Falcon, is given as another example of someone who stepped down. What really happened in the greyed out bit is that he announced he was not going to seek re-election. As part of that announcement he did “step down” from some posts he held. But he did not quit altogether. The last line you can see on the screen is that his reason for not seeking re-election is “he and his wife are expecting.” Since the next line is not seen, I can only assume they are expecting a baby. What else would they be expecting together? A new car? Cancer? A Notice of Demand? I don’t think so. People resign all the time for family changes.

Next, examples of results of specific “seed groups” utilizing the Notice theory are presented.

Kelowna, BC action — The SM installer company CEO resigned on the day he got a Notice of Default, and Chair of the BC Utilities Commission who also got the same notices resigned. That sounds impressive but did SM policy change? No. Did the installation company fold up shop and stop installing SMs? No.

Seattle — same thing. People did not seek reelection and a couple of people resigned but did policy change? No. And BTW, people resign and don’t seek reelection all the time. Since I have been on the ACC’s case here in AZ (6 years), the ACC Executive Director resigned. 2 Utilities Division Directors have resigned. The so-called “Ethics Officer” resigned. Other various people there have resigned. Was that because they got Notice letters? No. Was that because I was such a relentless PITA? No. They resigned for a number of different reasons. A couple of them went to work for APS. Oh, and the Exec. Director of the AZ Dept. of Health Services, the guy who was in charge when the fraudulent SM health study they did came out, also resigned. Was that because I savaged his stupid SM study? No. Was it because he got a Notice? No. He moved on to a university teaching gig in Tucson. People do get sick of Phoenix. People do make career changes.

MI — AG Bill Shuette calls for free right of SM refusal after being sent the Notices. Total nonsense. Schuette has been hip to the SM scam since at least 2012! At the bottom of this email I reproduced the statement he issued in 2012.

About 4 people at the MI PUC are no longer listed at the website. Big deal! See my point above about the ACC resignations here. Happens all the time.

If you read the greyed out part, you can see that the Warren city attorney statement was taken out of context. Josh made it sound like he resigned and in so doing blew the whistle on DTE’s campaign donations. Campaign donations are a matter of public record. I look up APS’s all the time. It’s not major whistleblower stuff. The point the Warren city attorney was making (again, in grey) is that, for people who want to change SM policy there are steps that must be taken, and that some venues are appropriate and others aren’t. In his opinion for example, the Council can’t do it. Also, DTE is the beneficiary of a certain law which he cited and then, saying that the law could be changed, he mentions that would be hard because of DTE’s campaign donations. That’s not whistle blowing. It’s a statement of political reality. In short, the city attorney was being frank.

13 people have saved their analogs. That’s great, but for how long will that last? Were they given any guarantees? If they wrote Notices, where are the responses? Also, there’s a lot of people in MI who held on to their analog meters — until they didn’t. In other words, they were defiant and that worked for quite a while but eventually DTE came around to either cut them off or install a SM. If the 13 Josh mentioned still have their analogs a year or 2 from now, then I might be convinced.

NY — The speaker says he sent a $300M liability letter to not have a “smart” water meter and got a letter back saying “We’re sorry; you don’t have to have one.” But would he have gotten that letter anyway had he written something less shrill? The details of how to refuse a SM in his location are not provided. Were the meters mandatory? We don’t know.

Maui — This is another false cause and effect. The electric company switched from wanting to blanket the islands with “smart” meters to an “opt in” proposal. That was actually the result of the PUC rejecting the company’s huge proposed budget. The company had to make cuts. Blanket “smart” meter installation was one of them, but it remains a long term company goal. Also, that decision was made well before any Notice letters were sent out.

Lastly we get the voice of a “utility insider” who says that his utility has a “war room” dedicated to keeping track of SM resistance. Big deal. Of course they do! Josh is flattering himself if he thinks that’s the result of Notice letters being sent out. I am sure just about all the utilities have war rooms or at least have someone whose job it is to keep track of resistance. I know for a fact for example that APS has pictures of my meter cage. Does anyone think these companies just sit on their thumbs in the face of a threat like SM resistance of any kind? PG&E had VP “Ralph” infiltrate some anti-SM chat group years ago. In response to her request not to have a transmitting gas meter, someone I know actually got an email from UNS gas here telling her she’d been “brainwashed by Warren Woodward.” So of course these companies are keeping track of us, Notices or no Notices.

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Footnote: Opt-Out Provisions From MI A.G. Bill Schuette in 2012:

Given the questionable benefit of smart meter program to customers, as well as the extensive public concern about the effect and potential intrusiveness of smart meter infrastructure acknowledged in the Commission’s January 12, 2012 Order in this matter, the Commission appropriately directed Michigan’s electrical utilities deploying or proposing to deploy smart meters to provide information about their plans for allowing customers to opt out of having a smart meter, and how they intend to recover the cost of such an opt-out program.

The Attorney General respectfully submits that utility customers should be given a meaningful choice of whether to have smart meters installed and operated on their property. An “opt-out” program that requires those customers who opt out to pay an unwarranted economic penalty for doing so does not afford customers such a meaningful choice.

The information provided by Detroit Edison, and Consumers [Consumers Energy Company] in response to the Commission’s Order does not sufficiently establish that they intend to offer customers a fair choice of whether to accept smart meters on their property. Detroit Edison’s response on this subject is based upon the assertion that “Edison’s AMI [Advanced Meter Infrastructure] program is beneficial for all customers.” (Document No. 0148, p. 7). Proceeding from the unsubstantiated assertion, Detroit Edison apparently proposes to impose what it broadly describes as “all incremental costs” solely upon customers who choose not to accept installation of smart meters. (Document 0148, pp. 8-9). Consumers’ submission similarly states that while it proposes to provide customers with the option to retain their existing meter equipment, it apparently intends to subject customers making such a choice to additional charges, including charges for “maintaining ready testing and billing traditional meters”. (Document No. 0146, pp.16-17). While neither Detroit Edison nor Consumers provide details regarding their opt-out proposals and associated charges, both of their comments suggest that they intend to effectively penalize customers who choose to opt-out of smart meters. Presumably, under the utilities proposals, customers who opt-out of smart meters would be required to pay rates covering both the costs of the smart meter program, and expansively defined incremental costs “of retaining traditional meters. These proposals raise substantial questions as to whether their respective customers would, in fact, be afforded a fair and meaningful choice to “opt-out”.

Another argument which may be important for the Commission to consider is whether a financial incentive to homeowners who allow smart meters to be installed in their home might be an alternative approach to a rate increase if a homeowner refuses to permit a smart meter to be installed.

Respectively submitted, Bill Schuette
Attorney General

[From: ATTORNEY GENERAL’S COMMENTS PURSUANT TO THE MPSC ORDER DATED JANUARY 12, 2012 – http://efile.mpsc.state.mi.us/efile/docs/17000/0408.pdf]