Does the MPSC serve the public?
LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, slammed the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) on Wednesday for dereliction of duty for their policies that allow utilities to cut the power of people who are trying to keep their analog utility meters.
“It‘s been roughly eight years since Marvin Schur died a painful death as he slowly froze in his own home because he had problems paying his utility bills,” Sen. Colbeck said. “Government reacted then by taking steps to make sure that could never again happen. Yet as the weather turns colder, untold people who have paid their bills but who are simply trying to keep their analog meter are having their power cut right now, setting the stage for history to repeat itself.
“Does the MPSC feel that some lives are more valuable than others? Given the monopoly status of our utilities, the MPSC is supposed to represent the interests of the ratepayers who are the captive customers of our utilities.”
Sen. Colbeck said he does not know how many people have had their power cut over “smart meters” because he has not been able to get an answer from the MPSC, which may not even know the answer themselves. Sen. Colbeck said he believes that hundreds of ratepayers have potentially received the shut-off notices, and that over twenty have contacted his office personally after their power was indeed cut.
More often than not the callers are elderly or disabled. Many have medical devices that require power, and many have phones that don’t work when power is out.
Given the latest wave of shut-off notices, Sen. Colbeck wonders how many more people who are elderly like Mr. Schur either haven’t reached out for help or are cut off from the outside world without a cell phone or a way to keep one charged.
“I’m being contacted by the friends and families of people in their 70s and 80s who are disabled or have asthma or congestive heart failure,” Sen. Colbeck said. “I’m getting contacted by people who have cancer or whose children have cancer and are now in the damp cold. People who are dependent on nebulizers of other powered medical devices.
“Some are homebound and are getting their power cut without a knock. Some go out to the grocery store and come home to darkness. I know of one elderly disabled couple who is going into their third winter without power. This is supposed to be the United States, not some third world country.”
Sen. Colbeck said he has not received any response to a letter he wrote to the MPSC commissioners two weeks ago. In this letter he asked for them to change their rules so people would have the ability to access electric service independent of whether they wanted to accept so-called “smart meters” on their property.