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by David Sheldon

February 27th, 2017 – All of us who care about the meter choice issue owe a debt of gratitude to Mark Lerner and the organization he represents, Constitutional Alliance. Mark has given generously of his time and experience in legislative matters to assist us in achieving meter choice legislation. Constitutional Alliance has, as its main issue, a campaign against forced biometrics. One of the central principles of his group is A free society and a surveillance society cannot be reconciled. Biometrics is the linchpin to a surveillance society.”

Forced biometrics involves the Real ID Act, any requirement that people submit to high resolution facial photographs or retina scans for id purposes. These technologies pose an unprecedented threat to human freedom, in a society where there are high resolution cameras on every street corner. Individuals can be tracked with precision and all their movements stored in a central database. The ability of individuals to participate freely in political discourse or protest demonstrations becomes chilled in direct proportion to this breakdown of anonymity.

Mark saw in our smart meter movement issues and positions, particularly those dealing with privacy, freedom from surveillance and property rights, very much in harmony with what those for which his organization stands. Mark regularly works with legislators in many states to resolve issues involving privacy and biometrics. He has worked with us in recent years to help persuade Michigan legislators of the need for meter choice legislation. His efforts, along with our own, have brought us to the point where we have House Bill 4220 being heard by the House Energy Committee and a real shot at getting this legislation passed – at least by the House.

Michigan Stop Smart Meters is and has been from the beginning a non-partisan organization. We are not right or left. We have not so far endorsed any candidate for political office. If we do so in future, we will pick candidates who have helped us in our smart meter fight, regardless of party. Mark has written an excellent commentary on similar principles his organization follows titled My own appreciation for the organizations that work together to protect our freedom” here.

Again, thank you Mark for all you have done!

 

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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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Things are moving fast now!
Your presence is needed!

(Extensive revisions made 2/18/17)

Tuesday February 21st and Tuesday March 7th, 2017 are the hearing dates in Lansing! (Date of 2nd hearing corrected!) Last week we reported on the newly formed House Energy Policy Committee under the chairmanship of Rep Gary Glenn. This week Chairman Glenn re-introduced a meter choice bill nearly identical to last year’s bill but under the new number of HB 4220. He has issued a press release announcing two hearings on this proposed legislation, both to take place at 9 am. These will be public hearings where anyone can fill out a card and address the Committee.

We need, first of all, a big turnout so the Committee and the House recognize that a lot of people are affected by this issue. The hearing will last 1-1/2 hours and will be videotaped by House TV. The second hearing on March 7th will give us another 1-1/2 hours.

We need to make sure that key issues are well covered. This bill is being proposed, and will be sold to the legislature primarily on grounds of property rights and privacy, though health issues and risk of fires will also be in focus. The utilities will doubtless have representatives there who will cite experts and conclusions supposedly reached by these experts. To counter that we need to cite experts and present evidence as well as our opinions.

We recognize that a hearing at 9 am on a weekday may be harder for some to attend than the hearing two years ago that started around 5 pm. But please get there if at all possible. If you resisted a smart meter installation because of well-founded privacy concerns, the Committee needs to hear that. That is a thread that needs to run through many of our comments. And if you have a story to tell about how your power was shutoff or your health suffered because of a meter, they need to hear that. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking come anyway! Your presence will help convince wavering legislators! If you will speak, plan to come early and sign up to speak before the start of the meeting!

Hard copy exhibits may also be submitted to the Committee Clerk. If you make a written submission at the hearing, be sure to bring 25 copies so the clerk can distribute to all committee members! For those of you who can’t make the hearing, written exhibits may be submitted to the clerk of the committee: kgawronski@house.mi.gov

The hearings will be in Room 519 of the Anderson House Office Building at 124 North Capitol Avenue. Again, if you care about meter choice, we need you to be there!

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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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