Friday, July 10, 2015

Doctor's Testimony at MPSC Sizzles

Dr. Carpenter’s Testimony Gets Tons of
Smart Meter Health Effects on the Record

Testimony can be used in future cases.

As part of DTE’s case seeking an increase in rates for all of us customers, David Sheldon
introduced the testimony of Dr. David Carpenter, professor of public health at SUNY-Albany, co-editor of the Bioinitiative Report, and long-time critic of smart meters. As in all cases before the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), this testimony was written. Once the written testimonies have been submitted, all parties have a chance to cross-examine the people who gave testimony.

DTE declined to cross-examine Dr. Carpenter. Why would they do that? The answer is simple: the less attention brought to the health effects of smart meters, the better for DTE. A person speaking to give testimony has much more impact than written testimony. By not examining Dr. Carpener, DTE was attempting to make him peripheral to this case. Even though Dr. Carpenter’s written statements are quite damning, by declining to cross-examine him, DTE was hoping to effectively make his testimony nothing more than a whisper. “Dr. Carpenter’s cross-examination gave him an opportunity to make his written testimony come alive and to establish his credibility with the judge as a seasoned and highly credible professional,” says David Sheldon.

The MPSC tried nearly the same strategy, asking Carpenter just three questions. In attempt to discredit his testimony, MPSC attorney Spencer Sattler asked Dr. Carpenter whether he has a medical license. Carpenter said no. Fortunately, David Sheldon had a chance to ask redirect questions, and he asked Carpenter whether he is in fact a doctor of medicine. Carpenter said yes, but that he does not have a medical license and does not need one. Carpenter is not practicing medicine in a clinic because the work of public health physicians is focused on populations, not individuals.

MPSC attorney Sattler asked the judge to admit two questions Sattler had asked Dr. Carpenter during discovery. Discovery questions are not part of the record unless the party who asked them asks that they be made part of the record, and no other party gets to see them unless they are made part of the record. Sattler goofed. One question admitted as part of the record was a question he asked of Carpenter that is favorable to our side and that he definitely didn’t want there. The DTE attorney asked Sattler several times, “Are you sure you want to admit Question 2b?” And Sattler repeatedly said, “Yes, I’m sure.” Hooray!

Fortunately, Richard Meltzer is also part of this case, and is on our side. Because he did not introduce Dr. Carpenter’s testimony, he was able to ask questions of Carpenter. Richard could only ask questions that were adversarial in nature: cross-examination is provided so that opposing parties can poke holes in witness testimony. Richard cross-examined Dr. Carpenter for two hours, over numerous objections from DTE attorney Michael Solo, our nemesis in the opt-out case (U-17053), and MPSC attorney Sattler. The judge permitted Dr. Carpenter to answer most of Richard’s questions. That is a far cry from the judge we had in the opt-out case, who did everything he could to exclude testimony we offered and shut down our cross-examination questions (except for testimony and questions he felt wouldn't harm DTE's case).

Will Dr. Carpenter’s testimony change the outcome of the case? It's unlikely, but the testimony still has a lot of value because it can be used in future court cases. This is a rate case, which means that DTE must show that the rates it is charging are justified. The reason we could even delve into the effects of smart meters on health is because DTE, as part of this case, must show that smart meters are a benefit to the customer. If smart meters are harming customers, and if the opt-out smart meter is harming customers or people do not feel the opt-out is a benefit, this brings into question the entire smart meter program and the opt-out program.  Unfortunately, no testimony was introduced by our side that shows specific harm to individual customers. One example of lack of benefit would be people submitting testimony regarding the effects on their health. Another would be people submitting testimony that the opt-out meter does not benefit them for whatever reason. The upshot of all this is, the judge can simply note that Carpenter’s testimony is interesting and even potentially true, but that no evidence has been introduced showing specific harm to DTE customers.

Nonetheless, it is a very good thing we have Dr. Carpenter’s testimony on the record because it can be used in future court cases.  This is the first time that testimony on the negative health effects of smart meters has become part of the record in Michigan. That is a real plus for us, and we can be very grateful that David Sheldon put the time and effort he did into having Dr. Carpenter come all the way from New York to testify.

I again encourage every one of you to write up the effects smart meters have had on your health so that we may have this information available (you can be anonymous or not). Here are some guidelines on what is important to include. Send your write-up to us.  You can also take our Health Survey, but no matter what,  be sure to send us your written story!

Dr. Carpenter testified without compensation, but David had to lay out $1000 for his expenses. He would very much appreciate it if you could could defray those costs via a donation to

Michigan Stop Smart Meters
215 West Troy #4004
Ferndale, MI 48220

See David Sheldon’s write-up of Carpenter’s testimony at Michigan Stop Smart Meters.

Our story above is published on our Alerts and Breaking News blog, which can be accessed via our website (first box on the right-hand side of the page) or by going to Check that page and our Facebook page for breaking news.

See all of the testimony and other documents submitted so far in this case at the MPSC's e-file site. The cross-examination of Dr. Carpenter is not up there yet, but many other documents are.

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