Michigan AG, MEC urge municipal utilities to protect customer health

MEC report finds few municipal utilities made commitments to help customers during the COVID-19 pandemic

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Citizens Utility Board of Michigan and Michigan Environmental Council urged municipal utilities Friday to better protect their customers’ physical and financial health and well-being.

In a joint press release, the group urged 40 municipal electricity utilities to voluntarily commit to suspending disconnections, reconnecting services and expanding financial assistance. The commitments align with an earlier Michigan Public Service Commission decision MEC played an advocacy role in that regulated and cooperative utilities are required to affirm.

The group also urged municipal utilities to collect and provide data on nonpayment service shut-offs and on methods to reconnect residents. Regulated utilities must affirm they will do these actions and cooperative utilities are encouraged to do them.

An MEC report tracking utilities’ COVID-19 pandemic protections found that as of April 23 no municipal utilities made public commitments to suspending disconnections or reconnecting services for senior, low-income and sick customers. Commitments varied on general moratoriums and financial assistance.

“Having access to affordable, reliable electric and gas service is essential at all times for living comfortable healthy lives, but more so than ever when all Michiganders are sheltering in place,” said Charlotte Jameson, program director for legislative affairs, energy and drinking water for Michigan Environmental Council. “All communities in Michigan have been hit by the coronavirus and a patchwork of utility responses won't provide the level of consistency in protection that is needed. In fact, our research shows many municipal utilities have not adopted any protections for their customers during the pandemic. We strongly encourage all municipal utilities to voluntarily comply with Commission order so that no Michigander who is struggling right now is left behind.”   

If all Michigan utilities follow through on their affirmations, all residents would be ensured the ability to wake up warm, refrigerate their food and work and learn from home.