DTE Electric manager of distribution systems, Bill Cloutier, shows tree-trimming maps to the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees at April 2018 meeting
May 29, 2018 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Last week, Plymouth Township resident John (Jack) Dempsey made his opinions clear to the members of the Michigan Public Service Commission (PSC) set to review the five-year distribution investment and maintenance plans for DTE Electric, Consumers Energy and Indiana Michigan Power.
Dempsey said he hopes his May 11 letter addressed to the executive secretary of the commission will challenge DTE to modernize its infrastructure and alleviate the numerous distribution-related outages in the community. Plymouth residents have repeatedly lost electric power during the past month, said to have been caused by a spring storm. Dempsey said he is also concerned about the circumstances in which a Detroit woman died after coming into contact with a downed electric line.
The PSC order provides a means for public comment and Dempsey a retired attorney who formerly served as a Michigan assistant attorney general and currently serves as a Plymouth Township trustee took the opportunity to respond. Dempsey stressed that he was commenting as a private citizen although he has 30 years in law-with a specialty in energy legislation.
He said his letter was prompted by the repeatedly occurring electric outages that adversely impact thousands of electric customers, often for extended periods of time. The PSC wants answers from DTE as to how the electric company prepared and responded to the storm and if the lack of system maintenance was a factor in the outage and Detroit death. Company officials have until June 29 to file a safety and incident report and the PSC staff will have until Aug. 10 to review the report and respond.
The PSC focuses on the legal aspects and concerns that portions of the DTE distribution system are unable to provide reliable and safe service as required by law during large storms and weather events. DTE could likely face penalties and fines if found by the PSC to be out of compliance with electric service safety regulations.
In his critique of the PSC order, Dempsey was critical of the DTE justifications for the numerous outages, including the conditions of the Plymouth and Plymouth Township substations. He criticized the “enhanced tree trimming” plan cited by DTE which did not include the local substation.
“Allowing these important parts of its distribution system to reach such a state was not a prudent or best practice,” Dempsey stated in his comments.
Dempsey urged the commission to take action and asked how regulatory policies have contributed to such a lamentable situation. He stated that the commission’s use of the single term “aging” to describe the DTE distribution system as “alarming.”
“To the extent the utilities have failed ‘to ensure such systems are safe, reliable, and resilient long into the future,’ the commission should fashion policies that protect ratepayers from systems that are unsafe, unreliable, and infirm. Transparency and accountability for conditions at the local level need major enhancements,” he said.
Members of the public can file comments on the PSC reports until 5 p.m. Sept. 7 by mail to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo © Don Howard/Associated Newspapers