The Michigan Public Service Commission is holding a hearing Monday on DTE Energy’s proposal to increase rates.
DTE wants residential customers to pay an additional $388 million every year. That’s an 8.8% increase for gas and electric on most households.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib opposes the move. She says her constituents are already burdened by the cost of the utility.
“People don’t understand, [paying] $300 or more for utilities every month, especially if you’re a frontline worker, if you’re a person that does live check by check — you can’t even budget for that.”
Tlaib says thousands of DTE customers have had their utilities shut off because they were not able to pay their bills. An analysis earlier this year by ProPublica and Outlier Media showed DTE disconnected customers 80,600 times in 2020 and more than doubled that number in 2021 — its highest annual total since 2016.
Environmental activists are organizing against DTE Energy’s proposed rate hike. They say the rate hike is too costly and DTE’s service has proven to be poor. Last summer, thousands of DTE customers lost power for several days and many were not compensated.
State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) is the Democratic Floor Leader. He says energy utilities like DTE have considerable political influence.
“It’s ridiculous that we’re even talking about giving more profits to CEOs, giving more profits to their Wall Street investors. This is unacceptable. People are suffering. Why are we even having this conversation right now?”
Jamesa Johnson-Greer is the executive director of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. She says DTE works to suppress concerns about the price hike.
“They have put money into our elections,” Johnson-Greer says. “They continue to shut people off. They continue to make sure that energy resources are not affordable for most Michiganders, especially in Black and brown and low-income and rural communities.”
Johnson-Greer says DTE power plants are negatively impacting health outcomes for those living nearby.
In 2019, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition and University of Michigan researchers conducted a Health Impact Assessment of DTE’s service area, examining affordability, energy efficiency and health impacts. They found health costs from DTE power plant pollution totaled $302 million annually across the tri-county area.
The Michigan Public Service Commission hearing starts at 6 p.m. tonight at the Wayne County Community College District campus in downtown Detroit. MPSC staff will provide educational materials about utility regulation, energy assistance and other information, including how to seek resolution to disputes with utilities about billing, service and other matters.