Michigan lawmakers call for hearings after widespread power outages

Michigan ranked among least reliable for utilities in country

LANSING, Mich. – Democratic state lawmakers said there was already interest in legislative hearings to bring state utilities to Lansing to answer questions about repeated reliability issues and long wait times for restoration.

Winter weather that spanned across several midwestern states earlier in the week knocked out power to a million customers across the system’s path, but Michiganders were the hardest hit. At one point Michigan had nearly 730,000 customers without power, the most of any state in the country several times over, according to PowerOutage.us.

Nearly half a million people were still without power in Southeast Michigan on Friday. And on Sunday morning there were still more than 170,000 without power. Thousands of field crews were working to restore power before the next blast of winter weather.

“The length of this outage, in freezing temperatures, is completely unacceptable. The frequency of outages and lack of reliability is completely unacceptable,” said Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) on Twitter on Sunday. “I will do the work to hold DTE accountable and demand improvements.”

When asked if there will be for hearings McMorrow, who sits on the State Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said she hadn’t spoken with senate leaders yet but said “I hope so/will ask that there are (hearings).”

State Sen. Darrin Camilleri (D-Trenton) also said he’s been in talks with the Chari of the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment, Sen. Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) who expressed interest in hearings.

“There will be hearings,” Camilleri said, though he said there was no set timeline. “We will be talking over.”

The issue also reached the halls of the U.S. Congress. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI7) said on Saturday on social media she had “requested briefings” about the outage response to find “how we get at the ongoing issues.”

Recently Michigan was ranked among the least reliable for utilities in the country according to rankings from the Citizen’s Utility Board. The consumer choice website ChooseEnergy.com gave DTE Energy, the state’s largest utility, the least reliable ranking in its latest list as well as among the most expensive in the country.

When asked for an interview on Sunday about potential hearings DTE spokespeople said their focus was on power restoration including restoring power to 450,000 customers since Wednesday.

“We completely understand the frustration being expressed and we will continue to work with state and local leaders on our shared goals of continuing to improve reliability, deliver cleaner energy, while maintaining affordability for our customers,” DTE spokesperson Brad Carroll said on Sunday.

DTE officials said the utility planned to have power restored to nearly all of their customers by Sunday evening. Anyone in need of shelter or food while they’re without power can call 211 for help.

Read: DTE Energy power outage restoration times in SE Michigan: Here’s what we know