LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – Attorney General Dana Nessel Tuesday morning implored legislators to work with her on legislation that would force greater transparency and better service from Michigan electric and gas utility providers in the shadow of nearly 750,000 ice storm-caused power outages that haven’t been fully fixed nearly two weeks later.

“Just as all of you sitting here are, I am exasperated at this point by the utilities,” Nessel said when asked about utility outage and credit issues by Rep. Sarah Lightner (R-Springport). “We have worked tirelessly to challenge them to do their very best, but of course all we can do is file these interventions, we file these pleadings, we fight as hard as we can for as much transparency.”

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While Nessel appeared to be striving to tread lightly on the fact that it’s the Michigan Public Service Commission’s charge to regulate utilities, she eventually focused on their work as well.

“I say this with all due respect to the Michigan Public Service Commission, but I think at this point we need legislative action,” she said. “The commission, I think, frankly, has not done its job of insuring that we have in place a system that we can rely on.”

Much of Nessel’s consternation was focused on power interruptions.

“Outages have gotten more and more pervasive, for lengthier periods of time,” she added. “We know we have more extreme weather events . . . you know who is surprised by that? No one! And we should not be surprised as they continue in the future.”

She also railed against how credits are provided by utilities to consumers who suffer outages – literally accusing the state’s utilities of ‘playing games’ with the credits.

“First of all, the way you even get a credit, even if you’re a mathematician, it’s hard to figure out according to their formula, which they make very difficult. And, they play games, just as you suggested,” Nessel said to Lightner. “But the fact that you have to apply for it in the first place, when they know who has an outage! And why aren’t we making the utilities tell customers exactly how many times their power has been out and for how long their power has been out so they have that information?”

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The Attorney General said she has lots of ideas about how the legislature could enact changes in state law to get Michigan residents more reliable and more affordable service, including how utilities spend their resources.

“Look, I think it’s great that they’re providing these backpacks for kids. But you know what would be better than that? Just good service at a reasonable cost,” she added. She also implored the lawmakers, despite the fact that utilities are significant campaign contributors, to have courage in tackling the issue.

“So, I know it’s hard, but I hope that we can all come together and understand that ‘yes, they’re the 800-pound guerrilla in the room that can bury us if we’re too aggressive in holding them accountable,” she added. “But, at the end of the day, isn’t that why we all ran for office… so that we could provide good services to our constituents?”

Scott Plans Power Outage Hearing For March 15

Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit) said today her House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee will hold a hearing March 15 to find out more about why so many DTE and Consumers Energy consumers were left without power after the Feb. 23 ice storm.

According to Poweroutages.us, around 8,500 DTE customers are still without power. At one point, the number was around 750,000 for DTE and Consumers combined.

“We cannot and will not simply accept that this is our new normal,” Scott said. “The power grid and associated infrastructure must be reinforced, updated and improved so that residents are safe, warm and receive the services they pay for.”

Scott said she plans to hear from power company leaders and from Michigan Public Service Commission Chair Dan Scripps.