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MPSC Launches Investigation into the Responses of Consumers Energy Company and DTE Electric Company to Recent Ice Storm Damage

Contact:  Judy Palnau, 517-241-3323
Agency:  Michigan Public Service Commission   

January 8, 2014 - The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) today launched an investigation into the responses of Consumers Energy Company and DTE Electric Company to recent storm damage in their service territories.

"The Michigan Public Service Commission has an obligation to ensure that regulated utilities are using ratepayer supplied funds to provide customers with reasonably reliable service, to protect the public from hazardous downed power lines, and to promptly respond to and restore power to customers suffering from outages," said MPSC Chairman John D. Quackenbush.

"Moreover, Governor Rick Snyder last month featured electric reliability - as it relates to the number of outages and their length - as one of his top energy goals for Michigan. Reports of prolonged power outages raise serious concerns and require review by the Commission."

Today's order launches an investigation that will examine: how the ice storm affected the utilities' distribution system; how the utilities responded before and during the storm (including information on the number and deployment of utility line crews, Michigan-based contractors, and mutual assistance crews from other states, as well as information on forestry crews); whether any changes could be implemented to reduce the potential for future power outages of the magnitude recently witnessed; whether there is evidence of a failure on the part of either utility to properly maintain its distribution system that could have contributed to the outages experienced during these storms; whether the utilities were properly prepared to receive and respond to customer calls to report outages, any problems experienced on the reporting system during the storm, and whether accurate information was relayed to customers; and whether the utilities sufficiently addressed all public safety concerns associated with downed power lines in a timely manner.

The Commission directed the utilities to file a report in this docket no later than 5 p.m. on Feb. 7, addressing these issues. The public is invited to comment on the utility reports. Written and email comments may be filed with the MPSC no later than 5 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2014. All comments should reference Case No. U-17542. Written comments should be sent to: Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909. Comments may be emailed to: mpscedockets@michigan.gov. All information submitted to the Commission in this matter will become public information available on the Commission's website and subject to disclosure.

Thereafter, the MPSC staff will file a report in this docket no later than 5 p.m. on March 10, analyzing the comments and the utilities' filings and recommending potential changes to utility operations or procedure, if such changes are identified. The utilities may thereafter file a response to the MPSC staff's report no later than 5 p.m. on March 24. At the conclusion of the process, the Commission may propose remedial action, as appropriate.

The MPSC is an agency within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Case No. U-17542

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