South Lyon City Councilman Alex Hansen is encouraging his constituents to attend upcoming public meetings to hear from those impacted by power outages that left hundreds of thousands of residents without electricity.
At Monday’s South Lyon City Council meeting, Hansen urged city residents who were left without power for days after recent ice and snow storms to attend a series of meetings being held by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state.
Two in-person town halls will be held on Monday, March 20th in areas hard hit by the ice storm, the first from noon to 2:30 p.m. at American 1 Credit Union Event Center, 128 W. Ganson St. in Jackson, and then a second from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Fordson High School’s auditorium, 13800 Ford Road in Dearborn.
The MPSC also will hold a virtual town hall meeting, livestreamed over Microsoft Teams, on Tuesday, March 21, from 6-8 p.m.
MPSC Commissioners will make brief opening remarks on steps being taken to upgrade the state’s power grid and make it “more resilient against increasingly severe year-round storms that are happening more frequently as the state’s climate changes and will reserve the rest of the time to listen to comments from attendees.”
But Hansen did more than just urge attendance, noting a recent article in Bridge Michigan that reported DTE Energy, the state’s largest utility, cut its operations budget months before the Feb. 22 ice storm that left more than 450,000 of its customers without power, and did so to meet earnings projections.
“While many of our South Lyon residents were cold and without power, the CEO of DTE held a conference call with Wall Street analysts telling them that the company had delivered strong financial results,” said Hansen. “Shareholder value over our residents? This is the worst of what is wrong with having a for-profit utility company. We must hold DTE accountable, and I would urge our residents to take action.”
Meanwhile, DTE is requesting a rate increase that would raise the average customer’s bill by more than $12 a month. It follows a request by the utility last November to hike rates by 8.8%, which was mostly rejected by the MPSC after more than 200 people, most in opposition, turned up for a public hearing.
Councilman Hansen said he was hoping for a similar reaction by residents impacted by the outages.
“Write your state Congressman, write your state Senator, write your Governor, write your Congresswoman, write your Senators,” he said. “And when you have no further ink or feeling in your hand from writing, call them. Call your state Representative. Call your state Senator. Call your Governor and call your Congresswoman and call your Senators. Do not stop until this company is held accountable. There needs to be a system of checks on the utility companies and it’s time to reign them in. Let’s get to work.”