FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Community Advocacy Impacted Public Service Commission Ruling on DTE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 12, 2020
Contact: Bridget Vial, 313-720-4330, [email protected]
Community Advocacy Impacted Public Service Commission Ruling on DTE
DETROIT - Last week, the Public Service Commission – the 3-member, governor-appointed Commission which regulates utilities – approved a 4.6% rate increase for DTE Energy in the midst of a pandemic and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
There’s good news, however. Facing mounting pressure from advocates, the Public Service Commission took DTE to task for a number of outrageous budget items, nixing hundreds of millions of dollars requested for bloated executive compensation, and unjustified spending on fossil fuel plants and IT infrastructure. Most notably, the commission ruled to reduce DTE’s return on equity from 10% to 9.9%, flaunting DTE’s request for an increase in profits.
“The Administrative Law Judge found that DTE’s request amounts to asking for a rate base a billion dollars higher than they need to provide safe and reliable service,” said Bridget Vial of Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “We applaud their decisions to rightfully limit shareholder and executive profits, but we cannot continue to try and meet in the middle with a company that shows a complete disregard for health and affordability.”
DTE proposed a marketing and accounting scheme designed to artificially create profit from their utility-scale solar installations on the backs of their ratepayers. The MPSC rightfully saw through this gambit and not only rejected the program, but directed DTE to work with low-income advocates like Soulardarity and Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition to design solar programs that capture the real benefits of clean energy for frontline communities. Even so, community members are wary of DTE’s viability as a company and don’t think it provides safe, affordable energy.
“DTE is a ticking time bomb,” said Shimekia Nichols, deputy director of Soulardarity. “As fossil fuel industries are facing financial crisis, DTE is still spending billions of dollars on gas pipelines and banking on the Michigan Public Service Commission to protect them. It’s time for the Commissioners to see the writing on the wall and support Michigan’s right to choose safe, affordable, local clean energy.”
This rate hike comes after huge chunks of DTE’s proposed Integrated Resource Plan were scrapped due to their failure to provide adequate information. DTE also filed for a gas rate hike of 8.3% for residential customers, while their unregulated subsidiary pipeline business spent $2.65 Billion on pipelines in Texas, a risky investment that caused Fitch Ratings to downgrade their bond rating.
“For DTE’s shareholders to get business-as-usual returns during a pandemic -- that’s a bailout,” said Michelle Martinez of the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition. “People haven’t been able to pay their rent, their utility bills in two months due to massive layoffs. Corporations need to pay their share.” The Work for Me, DTE campaign has called for ability-to-pay billing during the pandemic, and the Citizen’s Utility Board of Michigan called for required expansion of debt forgiveness programs for low-income customers.
Advocates and the MPSC expect that DTE will file for further rate hikes to make up for lost profits due to COVID-19.