Friday, April 10, 2015

Is a Locked Meter Illegal & a Safety Hazard?

Regarding DTE's assertion that a locked meter is illegal and presents a health and safety hazard. There are three things to look at: 1) Is it a health and safety hazard? 2) Is it illegal? 3) Is DTE using this as an intimidation tactic?
DTE states that a locked meter presents a health and safety hazard to family and neighbors. DTE says that it can shut off service for reasons of health or safety.
1.      It is not illegal to lock a meter. There is no statute or rule that states that it is. People and businesses have been locking meters for decades in Michigan to prevent theft of electricity and copper wire.
2.      Numerous Michigan residents had meter cages on their meters long before DTE began installing smart meters. The residents installed the cages to prevent theft of copper wire or electricity. DTE has never claimed those meters present a safety or health hazard. Many residents got their cages from, one of the few places in the country that makes such cages. The owner’s name is Chuck Barlow, and he can be reached at 239-823-3066.
3.      Many people have had meters locked for 3 years or more. DTE has not contacted any of them except 9 of the 10 people whose electricity they shut off. If DTE were truly worried that this is a health and safety hazard, they would have
a.      Contacted everyone with a locked meter via letter, advising them that it is a hazard.
b.      Begun remedying the situation in a systematic manner, rather than randomly shutting people off.

Is a locked meter a health and safety hazard?
4.      DTE’s claim that locking a meter creates a health and safety hazard pushes the boundaries of MPSC Rule 460.136 far beyond its obvious and rightful limits. Several of the people whose power has been illegally shut off will be filing a formal complaint with the Michigan Public Service Commission. A formal complaint before the commission is the equivalent of a court case.
5.      DTE is selectively targeting customers for shut-off. They shut off one or two in one city, one or two in another. If DTE's claims regarding health and safety were real, they would remedy the situation with locked meter as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would be remedying the situation on a daily basis. They would have begun doing this three years ago, when more and more people began locking their meters. Examples of the inefficient and unsystematic way in which DTE is shutting off power:
a.      In the trailer park where two shut-offs just occurred, there is another customer who has a locked meter who was not shut off.
b.      In Ann Arbor, where three shut-offs occurred a couple of weeks ago, there is a ¼-mile square area where there are over 40 locked meters. DTE has done nothing for these people’s “health and safety.” If DTE wanted to remedy a dangerous situation, they would begin in this area.
c.      There are swathes of people in cities with locked meters. DTE is not shutting them off systematically. To travel from Ann Arbor to Dexter to Webster Township in one day, shutting off five families in total, is not efficient. There are hundres of locked meters in the city of Ann Arbor.
6.      DTE does not have access to meters that are inside homes. By DTE's logic, these meters present an even greater health and safety hazard, because they are in no way accesible from the outside.
7.      DTE makes a claim that goes beyond the ridiculous. They have said to you, “What if a wire were loose? What if . . . .? How would we get to the meter?” 
a.      The chances of a loose wire are next to nil. Meters stay in place. Have you seen the huge cable that are inside a meter box? They are bolted and clamped down. The chances of something like that loosening are one in a billion.
b.      The fire department will be at a fire long before DTE. The fire department does not have a key to DTE's meters. DTE’s claim that they need a key is bogus.
c.      If DTE needed access to the meter, it could simply notify the customer to gain access.
d.      Analog meters have a depreciable life of over 43 years. There actual life expectancy is much longer. Smart meters have a life expectancy of 7-10 years. Smart meter fires are an increasingly common phenomenon. Just last week, large truck crashing into a utility pole in Stockton, California, caused hundreds of smart meters to explode and left 8000 people without power. This would be highly unlikely to  happen with analog meters because analog meter are not computers and do not get easily fried out by power surges.
Is DTE using this as an intimidation tactic?
8.      This was in large part addressed above.
9.      Prior to this DTE sent multiple intimidating letters to people who have refused the smart meters, intimating that their power would be shut off if they did not accept the smart meter. Most people refused to reply to DTE. DTE kept changing the wording and tone of the letters, hoping that they would scare people into caving in.
10.   Prior to the current tactic of shut-offs, DTE was cutting off the locks on locked meters. Clearly, they could continue this illegal tactic. Instead, they have chosen shut-off, in an attempt to brandish the ultimate weapon: Loss of power.
11.   Many people have written to DTE saying that they cannot have a smart meter on their home because of the health effects they experience from smart meters. DTE has not shut off any of those customers for locking their meter.  Instead, they have shut off people who do not currently experience any obvious health problems from smart meters, or they have shut off customers who have not contacted them at all. Clearly, they hope to have person after person cave in to accepting the smart meter. People who do not experience obvious health effects are likely to cave in, so DTE has chosen them first, so that more and more people back down.

MPSC rule 460.137 

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