Another smoke screen for DTE’s mismanagement
Sep. 2, 2021 PLYMOUTH VOICE.
Plymouth Michigan News
Five years ago, at an open house at the Hilton Garden Inn DTE Energy officials attempted to quell hundreds of service complaints from angry customers in the Plymouth community. Two months prior, a massive explosion and fire rocked Plymouth’s Old Village and destroyed the DTE Farmer Street substation. That blast left 4000 area residents and business in the downtown area without power for three days. Days later, workers in protective gear were observed cleaning up debris at the site of the fire and shoveling it into sealed barrels labeled as containing PCB, a known carcinogen. DTE management denied there was ever any danger to residents or firefighters.
DTE representatives told citizen attendees and officials at the meeting of their plans to “…improve service with system upgrades,” and set goals and timetables for work to be completed.
To appease customers, DTE mapped out “hot spots” and said the need for infrastructure improvements were obvious. They announced increased tree trimming along the power lines and the installation of new equipment. Work was said to be “on schedule” by a DTE spokesperson.
In 2018 amidst widespread criticism from irate Plymouth, Plymouth Township and Northville Township customers, who in the interim period suffered frequent service problems, DTE Vice President Heather Rivard acknowledged to Plymouth officials that the problems were related to old and neglected infrastructure in the area and the inability of DTE to provide continued safe and reliable service.
Today, frequent power frequent outages continue to plague both the city and township, especially Plymouth Township’s largest subdivision, Lake Pointe. In the last 30 days there have been several documented outages and residents once again were subjected to a complete lack of service despite repeated promises of improvements in both equipment and service from DTE.
According to annual filings with the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), recently reported by Detroit News journalist Craig Mauger, DTE and Consumers Power have reported spending $55 million on civics, politics and related initiatives during the past five years. Mauger, is the executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
“…96 percent of the state Legislature has received at least one contribution from either CME or DTE Pacs (political action committee) over the last 5 years…Meanwhile, Michigan has the highest residential electric rates plus the longest outages on average in the Midwest, according to the most recent tracking reports available,” reports Mauger.
Bob Allison, deputy director for the Michigan League of Conservative Voters obviously is not a big fan of DTE’s rhetoric.
“For years now, our residential rates have been skyrocketing, eating up more of family budgets, and yet all we get is more blackouts, longer outage times, and less reliability…(DTE) content to rake in massive, windfall profits while families and businesses across Michigan suffer without power.”
In an announcement yesterday that sounds like an ambitious plan, DTE President and CEO Jerry Norcia shifted gears, now claiming trees are responsible for almost all of the time customers are without power during extremely high wind events, a convenient argument the company has bantered about before to suit the situation and appease customers, consumer groups, municipal leaders, the state attorney general, governor, and utility regulators, all critical of the DTE justifications for the numerous outages.
Norcia said the company “tripled our tree-trimming effort and doubled our infrastructure upgrades several year ago…when it began to see more severe weather pattern.”
The slick Madison Avenue television advertising campaign of the past years, “Know your own Power,” has apparently become, “We have the Power.”
Norcia’s announcement comes two weeks after DTE promised it would issue $100 “courtesy credits” to business and residential customers who lost power for several days. That’s not courtesy, it’s a bribe. DTE wants the complaints to stop but isn’t willing or able to take the necessary internal initiatives to upgrade the equipment required to provide an adequate level of service.
Until there are some controls on management pay scales and required levels of service, this abuse of the public trust will continue…without interruption.