MPSC opens investigation into DTE outages, line death

The Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) launched an investigation into DTE Electric Co.’s recent weather-related outages, and the circumstances around the death of a Detroit woman who came in contact with a downed electric line.

More than 300,000 DTE Electric customers lost power on May 4 when a storm with winds gusting to 70 miles per hour hit southeast Michigan. Power was not restored to some customers until several days later.

The Commission stated in its order (Case No. U-20169) that it is concerned parts of DTE Electric’s distribution system during large storms is unable to provide safe and reliable service, as is required by law. The Commission wants to know how the storm impacted DTE’s electrical distribution system, what DTE did to prepare for and respond to the storm, whether changes should be made to reduce the potential for death, injury, and widespread power outages, and whether system maintenance – or lack thereof – contributes to safety hazards and problems.

“The Commission is concerned about repeated power interruptions experienced by DTE Electric,” said Sally Talberg, chairman of the MPSC. “We’re confident this investigation will not only help to identify the causes of the outages but also offer solutions that will limit the frequency and avoid future tragic incidents like the one in Detroit earlier this month.”

Depending on findings of the investigation, DTE Electric could face regulatory action, possibly including a fine and penalties if it’s found that the company did not comply with electric service safety regulations under the Technical Standards for Electric Service, Electrical Supply and Communication Lines and Associated Equipment rules, and Service Quality and Reliability Standards for Electric Distribution Systems.

The MPSC ordered DTE Electric to file its safety and incident report no later than June 29. The Commission staff has until Aug. 10 to review the report and file a response. The public also can file comments on the reports no later than 5 p.m. Sept. 7 by mail to Executive Secretary, Michigan Public Service Commission, P.O. Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909, or by email to mpscedockets@michigan.gov.

 

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