MPSC: Consumers Energy must explain gas safety practices

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   June 7, 2019

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LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Public Service Commission today ordered Consumers Energy Co. to respond to findings that the company did not mark underground utility lines in a timely manner in more than 20,000 instances where MISS DIG 811 was notified of plans to excavate.

The MISS DIG system is a public safety program to avoid accidental strikes of buried utility facilities while digging. If a utility fails to mark underground electrical, telecommunications, natural gas, or other utility lines, it could be found in violation of Public Act 174 of 2013, the MISS DIG Underground Facility Damage Prevention and Safety Act. The Act requires facility owners or operators, after proper notice, to respond to a MISS DIG request before a project begins.

“Both state law and the Commission’s safety rules require gas and electric utilities as well as communications providers to accurately mark their facilities within a required timeframe,” said Sally Talberg, chairman of the MPSC. “Full compliance with this requirement is critically important to protect public safety, maintain the integrity of the MISS DIG process, and keep construction projects on schedule, especially during this busy construction season.”

The MPSC’s Gas Operations Section Staff in April and May tracked Consumers’ responses to requests to mark utility lines (Case No. U-20569). They found the company failed to act in a timely manner on more than 20,000 requests to mark natural gas and electrical lines and only partially responded to many others. Failure to mark utility lines can result in personal injury and damage to underground facilities.

Consumers must file by 5 p.m. June 28 in the case docket its response to the Commission’s findings of violations to Act 174. Anyone who is interested in participating in the case has until June 28 to file a request. Consumers and its counsel also must appear for a prehearing conference at 9 a.m. July 10 at the Commission’s offices, 7109 W. Saginaw Highway, Lansing.

(Related MPSC video: Practice Safe Digging.)

 

UTILITIES MUST INDICATE PARTICIPATION IN LOW-INCOME PROGRAM

The MPSC today directed utilities across Michigan to tell the Commission whether they will participate in the Low-Income Energy Assistance Fund program (Case No. U-17377). Investor-owned, cooperative, and municipal utilities that opt to collect the funding factor must provide to the Commission by noon July 1 the number of LIEAF qualifying meters. Under Act 95, the MPSC can collect up to $1 per meter per month to fund the program that offers financial assistance with heating bills and energy self-sufficiency programs. Utilities that opt out of the program cannot shut off residential customers between Nov. 1 and April 15.

 

COMMENTS SOUGHT ON MPSC’S DEMAND RESPONSE REPORT

The MPSC today invited comments from stakeholders and other interested parties on the Commission Staff’s report on demand response aggregation for alternative electric supplier load (Case No. U-20348). DR programs allow customers to cut energy bills by shifting when they use electricity away from times of peak consumption or high market prices. The report addresses who can bid aggregated DR resources into the regional transmission organization’s wholesale markets, how to track DR resources, and how DR should be reported in terms of utility capacity demonstrations. Comments are due by 5 p.m. June 21 to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909 or mpscedockets@michigan.gov. Reference the docket number in all comments.

 

DTE CAN’T USE OVERCHARGE AS PART OF 2015 PSCR RECONCILIATION

In a case involving a remand from the Michigan Court of Appeals, the MPSC found that DTE Electric Co. cannot include $13.45 million in its 2015 power supply cost recovery reconciliation (Case No. U-17680-R). As a result, this amount plus interest will be included as a beginning balance in DTE’s 2016 PSCR reconciliation, for a total approximate customer benefit of $29.5 million. The case stems from a dispute between DTE and Severstal Dearborn LLC where Severstal was overcharged from 2008-14 for power at the Dearborn steel mill based on incorrect meter readings. That case settled in 2015 in Case No. U-17663, with DTE ordered to refund the overpayments to Severstal. The Court of Appeals subsequently reversed the Commission’s previous order disallowing these costs from being assessed to DTE’s other customers, and remanded the case back to the Commission to determine whether the costs were reasonably and prudently incurred by DTE. In today’s order, the Commission found that, in light of DTE’s failure to inspect and read Severstal’s meters resulting in the overcharge, DTE had not shown that its actions were reasonable and prudent, and as such, found that these costs should not be billed to its customers as power supply costs.  

 

CONSUMERS PREPAID BILLING PILOT PROGRAM WAIVERS EXTENDED

Consumers Energy Co.’s extension of its waiver of customer protection rules for its prepaid billing pilot program has been approved (Case No. U-18060). Consumers asked the Commission for a three-year waiver of some of the requirements under the Consumer Standards and Billing Practices for Electric and Gas Residential Service rules. Up to 15,000 residential customers who have smart meters can voluntarily participate in the program which allows them to see account history and balances, energy use, and pay bills online or at participating retailers. Consumers must continue to submit monthly reports on the program.

 

TEMPORARY TELECOMMUNICATIONS LICENSE GRANTED

The Commission granted Metro Fibernet LLC a temporary license to provide basic local exchange service throughout Michigan (Case No. U-20507). Metro Fibernet next must negotiate interconnection agreements with incumbent carriers under the Michigan Telecommunications Act. The company can then apply for a permanent license.

TRANSMISSION STUDY PLANNED WITH INDIANA MICHIGAN POWER CO.

Commission Staff will organize with Indiana Michigan Power Co. an annual stakeholder forum beginning in 2020 to analyze transmission system needs, upgrade plans, alternatives, and costs and benefits of options (Case No. U-18404). The Commission also ruled that I&M can implement a 2018 power supply cost recovery factor of 17.97 mills per kilowatt hour, an increase of 7.47 mills.

To watch a livestream of the MPSC’s meetings, click here.

For information about the MPSC, visit www.michigan.gov/mpsc, sign up for one of its listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter.

DISCLAIMER: This document was prepared to aid the public’s understanding of certain matters before the Commission and is not intended to modify, supplement, or be a substitute for the Commission’s orders. The Commission’s orders are the official action of the Commission.

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