Michiganders who endured power outages demand justice during public meetings ⋆

Michiganders used words and phrases like “frightenting,” “service is garbage,” and “horrible,” when describing their challenges without power for hours — and in many cases, days — during a set of public hearings.

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MSPC) on Tuesday concluded the third of three public meetings designed to hear from those impacted by power outages after ice and snow storms last month. DTE has offered $35 for those affected by the outages for several days. 

DTE Energy, Detroit | Susan J. Demas

Kim Hunter of Detroit on Tuesday said that people should receive more than $35 and go “all in” to support its customers. 

“DTE has a guaranteed massive rate of return. They need to use that massive profit to make people whole,” said Hunter. “Folks should be refunded for every hour [without power.]” 

An Advance call and email to DTE officials was not returned. 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has called on DTE and Consumers Energy to automatically credit customers who suffer from outages and to increase the outage credit. 

“Despite asking for record increases time and time again, our utilities have failed to adequately invest in their own infrastructure or prepare for these storm events, choosing instead to leave ratepayers in the dark,” said Nessel. “Our current service quality standards are not sufficient, and it is incumbent on the utilities to right this wrong.”

Dan Scripps, MSPC chair, said prior to the meeting that his body understands the challenges that state residents are facing. 

“We know how exasperating it is to lose power and for it to take days for service to be restored, and we share in the frustrations with the reliability of the state’s power grid,” Scripps said. 

The MSPC held in-person town halls in Jackson and Dearborn on Monday and a virtual meeting on Tuesday was held at Fordson High School. U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingell (D-Ann Arbor) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit) attended the Dearborn meeting. 

The storms over the last several weeks have left more than 1 million Michigan residents without power, Scripps pointed out. 

“We’re having historical storms every year. At this point, they are no longer history. They are the new normal,” said Scripps on Tuesday. “We’ve gotta make sure that we have a grid that is ready for it.”

Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell at a meeting on the EPA in Dearborn, Oct. 11, 2019 | Ken Coleman

During the Monday meeting in Dearborn, Dingell said the outages are a “real problem.” 

“We need to start building our resiliency,” Dingell said. 

The outages have come while DTE has applied for a 14% rate increase. 

“I will continue to speak out against DTE’s greed and do everything to ensure that our residents have access to safe and reliable energy,” wrote Tlaib in a recent newsletter to constituents.

The commission is composed of three members appointed by the governor and serves staggered six-year terms. Scripps, Tremaine Phillips and Katherine Peretick are Gov. Gretchen Whitmer administration appointees. 

The commission, according to its website, is in the midst of a broad effort “to improve the reliability of the state’s power grid.”

The commission is preparing to launch independent, third-party systemwide audits of the electricity distribution systems of both DTE Electric and Consumers Energy to identify shortcomings, best practices, and parts of the system for targeted investment. The MPSC expects to post a request for proposals for the audits soon, with preliminary findings released before the end of 2023 and a final report in 2024. 

authored by Ken Coleman
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