Thursday, July 7, 2016

Court Sides with Consumers Energy--What a Surprise!

No surprise, given the corruption of our state government, and of the MPSC in particular. Did you know that one of the chairs of the Michigan Public Service Commission is a former Consumers Energy lobbyist?

From the Associated Press:
"The Michigan appeals court has upheld a 2013 decision by state regulators to allow Consumers Energy to roll out high-tech meters. The attorney general's office had challenged the utility's ability to recover the costs of the so-called smart meters. But in a 2-1 decision this week, the appeals court says state regulators relied on sufficient evidence supplied by the company.

"Judge Peter O'Connell wasn't swayed. In dissent, he says the Public Service Commission didn't do enough work, and the appeals court as a result can't conduct a 'meaningful review.' O'Connell says fellow judges Michael Gadola and Karen Fort Hood didn't follow the orders of the Michigan Supreme Court in taking a solid look at the case."

In a 2015 unpublished opinion, Judge O'Connell made cogent points regarding the program:

"How can smart meters save money when Consumers seeks to add millions of dollars to the base rate to fund the AMI program?"

"A cost-benefit analysis [of smart meters] should include health, safety, and privacy issues.”

I am concerned that under the opt-out program, those who opt-out must pay either a penalty, tax, or a fee for the privilege of retaining their non-smart meters. This Court, in its prior opinion, approved the PSC's order allowing costs to fund the AMI smart meter program to be added to the utility's base rate. At first glance, it appears the opt-outers are required to pay twice for the privilege of retaining their non-smart meter. The first payment is in the form of a penalty, tax, or fee to avoid having a smart meter installed on their home,5 and the second payment is of continued costs associated with the AMI smart meter program that eventually will be added to the base rate.”

“Why both charges? On remand, the PSC should answer that question. In the case of the opt-outers, they receive no benefit from the AMI smart meter program and must actually pay to be excluded from it, but then the opt-outer must also share in the costs of the program because of the increase to the base rate.”

“From this lower court record I am unable to discern the genesis, the reasons, or the rational for such an unprecedented double tariff.”

“I am also greatly concerned that the opt-out costs are actually a penalty imposed to force the opt-outers to comply with the AMI program. . .  . The PSC's implied finding that it is a fee/tariff rather than a penalty or a tax is not supported by even a scintilla of evidence in this lower court record. Just because the PSC says it is so on appeal does not make it so.”

“It appears, as the Attorney General argues and as in other states, that the smart meter program actually increases rates.”
Unpublished opinion, July 22, 2015 (Docket Nos 317434 and 317456)

See news articles on 2016 decision (all the articles are the same) at:

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