State to hold Dearborn, Jackson town halls to hear residents’ power outage concerns

Hundreds of thousands lost power in February ice storm

A DTE contractor crew works on a power line, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023, in northwest Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

DEARBORN, Mich. – State officials will hold a town hall in Dearborn on Monday to listen to residents’ concerns about power outages after a February ice storm caused hundreds of thousands of outages across Metro Detroit.

On Monday, March 20, the Michigan Public Service Commission will hold a town hall for residents to express their thoughts and concerns about power outages. The event is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. in the Fordson High School Auditorium.

The event comes nearly a month after an ice storm wiped out power for about 700,000 customers in the Metro Detroit area. Many, likely thousand, experienced sustained outages for days amid frigid winter weather. Some had to seek shelter elsewhere -- at hotels, for instance -- to stay warm.

Since the storm, multiple town halls have been held in Metro Detroit communities as residents’ frustration with utility companies continues to grow. The region has experienced several widespread power outage events, that last many days for some, due to inclement weather over the last couple of years.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has been critical of DTE Energy, which supplies power to Southeast Michigan. In addition to calling on the company to make infrastructural improvements to prevent more outages, the state AG says DTE’s $35 credit offered to affected customers is not enough.

Related: Many DTE Energy customers found $35 power outage credit insulting -- here’s what the CEO had to say

Additionally, just days after the storm -- and while many were still without power -- DTE’s time of day rate took effect, meaning electricity costs more or less depending on when you’re using it. DTE also recently proposed a rate increase.

“The Michigan Public Service Commission decides whether or not utilities receive their requested rate increases or are required to provide other accommodations like automatic credits during sustained power outages,” Nessel said in a statement last week. “... This is an opportunity for Michigan residents to ensure their concerns are heard. It is my sincere hope that in response, the commission takes action that our residents so badly deserve.”

Dearborn was chosen for the March 20 town hall because it was one of the communities hit hardest by power outages amid the February ice storm.

Michigan lawmakers are demanding answers and action from DTE. In a letter sent to the company’s CEO, U.S. Michigan reps. Debbie Dingell, Rashida Tlaib, Haley Stevens and Shri Thanedar are requesting information about: which zip codes experienced outages longer than 96 hours, the number of DTE employees activated in response to the incident, the company’s own assessment of its personnel shortfall and more.

“For more than two weeks I have heard from people across Southeast Michigan who have been forced to face frigid temperatures without power, and are dealing with challenges including frozen pipes, lost food and income, and the financial burden of last-minute hotel reservations,” Dingell said in a press release.

“Extended power outages threaten residents living with health conditions that require electricity for treatment such as oxygen support, or accommodations like a stair lift. We need to understand the circumstances that led to this crisis, and ensure we are better prepared for future weather events.”

More here: Ann Arbor representative among those asking for answers from DTE

DTE Energy CEO Jerry Norcia told Local 4 last week that 98% of those who lost power in the February ice storm early in the week had it restored by the end of that weekend -- but he agreed that it was unacceptable that some outages lasted into the following week.

He also said DTE has made a “tremendous investment” in the system without asking for a price increase in four years, but that the company still needs to do more.

Learn more about what Norcia had to say here.

Another town hall will also be held on March 20 in Jackson from noon to 2:30 p.m. at the American 1 Credit Union Event Center. Jackson is serviced by Consumers Energy, not DTE.

For those who can’t make in-person town halls on Monday, a virtual town hall will be held by the MSPC on Tuesday, March 21. Click here for meeting information for the virtual town hall.

Related: Here’s why DTE is stepping up efforts to trim trees amid latest power outages in Wayne County

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.