May 2, 2013

Clean Energy Advocates Call on DTE to be Accountable to Michigan Shareholders & Ratepayers

Thursday, May 2, 2013 

Clean Energy Advocates Call on DTE to be Accountable to Michigan Shareholders & Ratepayers 
Michigan shareholders and ratepayers hold press conference outside DTE Headquarters to represent Southeast Michigan’s missing voices from DTE shareholder meeting in NYC 

DETROIT – Dozens of ratepayers and shareholders gathered in front of DTE Energy’s headquarters today as Michigan’s largest utility held its annual shareholder meeting in New York City, far from its ratepayers and those affected by its corporate policies. The clean energy advocates raised concerns about DTEs dependence on coal, which poses a health risk for residents and a financial risk for shareholders. Clean Energy Now members spoke to an empty chair, symbolizing DTE CEO Gerry Anderson and the board who refused to face concerned shareholders in the utility’s hometown. The group delivered thousands of comments and petitions from DTE’s ratepayers across Southeast Michigan calling on DTE to support clean energy and energy efficiency as well. 

Ratepayers and shareholders are paying a heavy price as a consequence of DTE’s dependence on dirty energy. Michigan ratepayers shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of the utility’s risky business decisions,” said Frank Zaski, a DTE shareholder and ratepayer from Franklin.  Instead of investing in aging infrastructure to continue to burn dirty coal or building an unneeded and extremely costly nuclear plant, DTE has the opportunity to earn returns on large capital investments in clean renewable energy, unleashing innovation and creating thousands of jobs for Michigan workers in new industries.” 

Southeast Michigan is home to DTE Energy’s dirty and outdated coal plants, which emit enormous amounts of sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, mercury, soot, smog and particulate matter. Recent studies have linked these contaminants to numerous health problems, including: heart disease, childhood asthma, lung disease and neurological impairment, particularly in infants.  Currently, almost every coal plant owned by DTE has been cited for environmental violations, with several lawsuits against the company by environmental agencies and organizations pending.   

“My kid deserves better, and so do all of the children of southeast Michigan,” said Nicole O’Brien, a concerned mother and ratepayer in Beverly Hills. “It’s shameful DTE is avoiding listening to parents who have kids with health problems. We know these plants are making people sick, yet DTE continues to rely on coal as our major energy source. I’m encouraging DTE to do the right thing and to open their ears to the voices of concerned Michigan residents. It’s long overdue we transition away from coal and embrace renewable energy alternatives to clean up our state and to prevent pollution from harming our kids.”

Douglas Myers, resident of River Rouge who deals with pollution from DTE’s River Rouge coal plant daily, traveled to the New York City annual meeting and said he “felt it necessary to make our voices heard during DTE’s shareholder meeting in NYC for the future of the Downriver Area as well as others that have been at risk for quite sometime due to the dependency of DTE's use of  antiquated coal-fired power plants.” 

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), electric rates in Michigan are higher than in 38 other states and are among the highest in the country. Michigan rates were up eight percent last year, compared to rates across the country that were up one percent. By transitioning away from expensive, dirty coal to renewable sources like wind and solar power and by maximizing energy efficiency, DTE could save ratepayers money.  DTE has not made significant investments or commitments to bolster energy efficiency and renewable energy sources beyond the minimum required by state law, publicly stating that no further decisions on clean energy mandates should be made until after the current ones expire in 2015.

In 2012, DTE spent more than $11.8 million to defeat a referendum to raise Michigan’s renewable energy requirements to the same level as found in several neighboring states, despite private acknowledgement that the increased renewable requirement would not harm the company financially.  DTE is also artificially limiting its energy efficiency programs though they are the cheapest form of power. The shareholders and ratepayers at the event today called on DTE to embrace clean energy to help lower costs for ratepayers and to protect Michigan’s air and water.
“DTE needs to answer to Michigan residents instead of hiding in New York,” says Dan Marcin, shareholder and PhD candidate in economics from Ann Arbor. “We're calling on DTE to embrace clean, renewable energy to save ratepayers money, and to protect the health and well-being of middle class Michigan families. Let’s launch DTE out of the past and into a cleaner, brighter future. We can only move forward together if DTE’s CEO Gerry Anderson will listen to our collective concerns, and together we are rallying for change.”
Groups that delivered petitions and public comments on Thursday included: Clean Water Action, Ecology Center, Progress Michigan, Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists  .

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Clean Energy Now is a collaboration of nearly 50 non-profit organizations in Michigan working to move our state toward a clean energy future.