SE Michigan residents blast utility rate hike proposal during Detroit public hearing

By: - August 23, 2022 6:36 am

Qiana Davis, a Detroit resident, said it’s a struggle to keep lights and gas on at her Virginia Park home. | Ken Coleman

For Qiana Davis, it’s a struggle to keep lights and gas on at her Virginia Park home in Detroit. 

“The [DTE] rates are untenable for anybody,” she said on Monday. “I don’t care how much you’re making. It’s just not feasible for anybody. Most people are living check to check.” 

Davis told her story during a rally as the Defend Black Voters Coalition continued its effort to derail leading utility DTE’s 9% rate increase proposal ahead of a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) meeting held at Wayne County Community College District in downtown Detroit.

MPSC also is considering a request for lConsumers Energy to secure a rate increase of 7%. 

Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit attended the public hearing and gave the MPSC credit for holding it but wasn’t confident that the body would reject the DTE rate case. “I give them that but the proof is in what happens after that,” she said. | Ken Coleman

About 250 residents from Ortonville, Grosse Pointe, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor, Dearborn and Detroit attended the nearly three-hour public hearing. 

Participants included U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit); state Reps. Laurie Pohulski (D-Livonia) and Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor); as well as Wayne County Commissioner Jonathan Kinloch (D-Detroit). Detroit City Council members Angela Calloway and Gabriela Santiago-Romero also attended. So did Carlton Clyburn and Kendrich Bates, both Highland Park City Council members.

“DTE should be held accountable for their high rates and poor service,” said Santiago-Romero. “Raising the rates to 9% is unacceptable.”

Most of those who testified were against the rate increase. 

Defend Black Voters Coalition on Monday continued its effort to derail DTE’s 8% rate increase proposal ahead of a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) meeting held at Wayne County Community College District in downtown Detroit. | Ken Coleman

Requests for comment were not returned by Consumers Energy and DTE Energy. 

The coalition rallied at the MPSC meeting in July in Detroit and called for a public hearing. Member organizations of the coalition include Mothering Justice Action Fund, MOSES (Metropolitan Organizing Strategy Enabling Strength) Action, Emergent Justice, Michigan People’s Campaign, Michigan Liberation and Community Change Action.

MPSC Chair Dan Scripps, a Whitmer administration appointee and Democratic former state House member, told reporters after the hearing that the body must act on the case before Nov. 21, which would mark the 10-month statutory starting point on reacting to rate cases. The Northport resident acknowledged that the public hearing was scheduled because of the Defend Black Voter Coalition’s advocacy. 

“We’re to give the public more avenues to have dialogue,” said Scripps after the public hearing. 

Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit attended the public hearing and gave the MPSC credit for holding it, but she wasn’t confident that the body would reject the DTE rate hike. 

“DTE should be held accountable for their high rates and poor service,” said Detroit City Council member Gabriela Santiago-Romero. “Raising the rates to 9% is unacceptable.” | Ken Coleman

“I give them that but the proof is in what happens after that,” she said. 

Meanwhile, We the People Michigan along with Soulardarity and the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, all social justice nonprofit organizations, released a research and policy brief titled, “Utility Redlining: Inequitable Electric Distribution in the DTE Service Area.” It highlights “how DTE employs racial discrimination in the supply and distribution of energy” in communities of color. 

“Like so many profit-driven corporations that exploit vulnerable communities, DTE’s business strategy has led them to discriminate against communities of color in their electric distribution, modernization, and prioritization,” said Alex Hill, We the People MI research director. “We see DTE for what it is: a corporate profit machine that continuously damages and blocks progress for our communities. [We] can make different choices about our energy system. We can power our future with locally made energy from the wind and sun, while creating good jobs and healthy neighborhoods for all of our families, especially in the Black and Brown communities DTE has exploited so viciously.”

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

MORE FROM AUTHOR