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AG Nessel Requests Shared Sacrifice from Utilities for Costs Increases, Postponement of Projects Not Critical to Maintain Service, Safety

LANSING – As many Michiganders struggle financially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Attorney General Dana Nessel kept consumers in mind when she responded to a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) order seeking input on utility requests to recover COVID-19-related costs.

Last month, the MPSC issued an order requiring utilities under its jurisdiction to provide some minimum protections for vulnerable customers related to bill payment, disconnection of service and reconnection of service as a result of the current pandemic.  Part of the order asked utilities to provide a report on COVID-19 related costs and options for tracking and recovering these costs from customers.

“All utility customers, both businesses and individuals, have been impacted financially by COVID-19,” said Nessel. “Accordingly, utilities should also share in the sacrifice regarding COVID-19 costs and not be permitted to simply pass those costs along to their customers. Also, additional data reporting will assist the Michigan Public Service Commission to target relief to where it is most needed.”

In her response, Nessel requested the following: 

  • Additional data reporting on customer arrearages, extended payment plans and customer defaults in order to better understand and respond to customer needs. 
  • Require some shared sacrifice on the part of utilities by limiting COVID-19-related costs to only 80 percent of the amount actually incurred. 
  • Limit utility recovery of costs to the end of the fiscal year and allow recovery of only 80 percent of actual costs when the utility’s return on equity falls below authorized levels. 
  • Require utilities to offset costs by any gains such as acceleration of refunds from tax changes. 
  • Require utilities to reduce costs during the pandemic by reducing and postponing capital projects that are not critical to maintaining service or safety. 
  • Require utilities to return any reductions in power costs or natural gas costs as much as possible to customers during 2020. 
  • Adopt the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) resolution concerning protections for customers impacted by COVID-19.