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Senator Patrick Colbeck’s Newsletter
 

SERVING THE STATE SENATE 7TH DISTRICT

Headlines from this edition:

- Inappropriate power-shut off notices in the 7th District
- Cyber Security Awareness month
- The importance of hardening the state’s electric grid
- Michigan road building practices in need of a shakeup
- State Cyber Civilian Corps
- October "office hours" in Livonia
- Breast cancer: get the facts!
- Pumpkin decorating at the Plymouth Library

INAPPROPRIATE POWER SHUT-OFF NOTICES IN THE 7th DISTRICT

Our office has received a tremendous amount of communications this week from people receiving notices from DTE saying they will have their power turned off because of smart meter related issues. We believe that many of these letters are inaccurate and that power should not be able to be truly shut-off. While most of the people seem to be in the Livonia area, and are not actively blocking a meter exchange, we have received contacts from throughout the district. We are working with DTE to ensure these shut-offs do not occur unless 100% appropriate, and also with the Michigan Public Service Commission to make sure the administrative rules that dictate policy in this area are properly clarified. In any event because keeping power is so important we advise everyone who has gotten a letter to still contact DTE regardless of whether you believe the letter is valid or not.

If you believe you have received an erroneous or inaccurate letter please bring it to us at our next scheduled office hours tomorrow (see below). If the date on the letter requires more urgent attention please contact our office directly. We will do all we can to try to ensure your power is not turned off, and if it is turned off, to get it restored quickly.

Senator Colbeck has formally contacted the Michigan Public Service Commission on the matter and has also issued the following statement:

“In today’s modern society, we are more dependent upon reliable access to electricity than ever before. That is why the recent actions taken by DTE to shutoff power to customers simply because they would like to retain their analog meters is so concerning. Amazingly, customers who fail to pay their bills are protected against a shutoff of their power, but customers who pay their bills and would simply like to retain meters that have worked reliably for decades are having their power shut off. Does this sound fair to you? It doesn’t sound fair to me.

It is my hope that people who don't have concerns with these new meters can sympathize with those who do and see the problems that need to be fixed in our system. I certainly do and I have one of the new meters. Many of us do not worry about a "smart house" being hacked in today's world. In fact, many of us fully embrace the convenience of our new “connected” quality of life paradigm. But freedom matters. While most don't suffer health effects from the new meters, imagine if you did? Your home is supposed to be your castle, yet for hundreds of people in Michigan they will instead be forced to live with a device that makes them dizzy or causes health concerns every day of the week. They feel trapped in their own home. To even get a partially deactivated meter they must pay more for something they don't even want, and if they refuse their power is being turned off. That is not fair. Remember, these people are our neighbors. Many of these people are suffering from debilitating chronic illnesses. It is a sad state of affairs when the government mandates that a citizen’s private property rights can be overruled by a utility in this manner.

What makes the latest round of shut-off notices truly concerning is that it is even affecting people who have not blocked access to their meters. While I don't agree with it, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) rules state the utilities can turn off power to those who physically block their meters from being changed. But that is not the case with most of the people receiving shut-off notices now. These people feel brow-beaten that they are being made to not only allow the new meters to be installed, but to have to also somehow agree to actively endorse the installations they abhor. That is not just adding insult to injury. In our supposedly regulated market it is truly unconscionable. I know of one couple who has been without power for years, who are elderly and disabled. When will enough of this be enough? What harm are they causing? None.

The best way to resolve this issue is to provide consumers with choices regarding who supplies them with electrical power. If utilities actually had to compete for business, they would likely be much more responsive to the desires of their consumers. Sadly, today 90% of the electricity market in Michigan is reserved for “regulated utilities”. Only 10% of the market is open to choice. Those on the “choice” list not only have the opportunity to choose their energy source, they also pay about 20% less than those of us who are relegated to the regulated utility for our area. How do you get on the “choice” list? Get in line. Currently, about 15% of the market is on a waiting list.

The MPSC says citizens have a choice. But choosing between having electricity or not having electricity, as hundreds of people in the 7th District and across the state are finding out, is no real choice at all. It is coercion. The MPSC needs to change their rules regarding meter choice, and change them now. Just because many people don't have an issue with the new meters is no reason to allow for state sanctioned tyranny. Regardless of your personal thoughts on the new meters, I hope you will join me in asking the MPSC for a change on behalf of your friends and neighbors whose only "crime" is to want to control the activities occurring at what is supposed to be their one true safe sanctuary - their home.”


CYBER SECURITY AWARENESS MONTH

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October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, but it is always a good time to review your online habits and to make sure you keep your kids safe on the internet. Cybersecurity is now more than just about doing updates on your computer and protecting your passwords. Young and old alike may face several scams by fraudsters that might use Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, or other applications to get you to open up your wallet or unknowingly let strangers into your life that may seem friendly but actually intend to cause you or your loved ones harm.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has a useful website you can find by clicking HERE that teaches youth about online safety, which is important because the internet can be used to convince even young children to trust strangers or to lure them to remote locations for the purposes of abduction. Most children are doing more on the internet, and are much more proficient using smartphones and computers than their parents would ever believe. If you don’t know what your children are doing online, either at home on computers or while away on their smartphone, now is the time to get involved and find out.

The Federal Trade Commission and National Cyber Security Alliance also have excellent resources you can access as well, with tips on how to best protect yourself while online banking, opening emails, and performing other routine computer tasks that can expose you to identity theft and more.

Also consider that because we now live in a world of “The Internet of Things” that some newer thermostats, appliances, and other devices are now connectable to the internet and can unfortunately be hacked just as easily (and sometimes easier) than a computer. Many people buying these new devices do not know they are internet capable, and depending on Wi-Fi settings and default passwords may be vulnerable without the owners even knowing about it. To learn more about “The Internet of Things” click HERE.

HARDENING THE GRID

While many viewed the recent solar eclipse as just a great way to have fun with the family and to educate them on science, it was also an opportunity to learn how to better protect our power grids. Sen. Colbeck has been working with the Michigan State Police and National Guard to ensure that pragmatic steps are taken to protect our access to critical infrastructure services such as power. In fact, this past Summer, the State of Michigan conducted an exercise to simulate what would happen in the event of a sustained power outage. The exercise identified areas of improvement that are needed. Senator Colbeck has pledged his full support to resolve any issues that were identified. But beyond exercises and closer to home, wind storms and an electrical substation fire have left portions of the 7th District without power for more days than anyone would prefer.

Senator Colbeck previously testified before the House Energy & Technology Committee on the importance of system reliability, power cyber security, and his support for meter choice legislation.

As previously stated, Senator Colbeck has been adamantly opposed to DTE cutting off power to people who want to keep their analog meter. You can read more about the shut-offs HERE. Regardless of why people may wish to keep their analog meter, Sen. Colbeck believes that homeowners' property rights should dictate the devices that can be put onto their property. He also feels that the MPSC rule that allows for shut-offs in these circumstances is grossly unfair, considering that Michigan citizens pay into a fund to ensure those that can’t pay their bills over the winter aren’t shut off, yet people who pay their bills and would simply like to keep their analog meter are faced with shut-offs.

Sen. Colbeck is also opposed to a recent case decision that allows for some electric rate increases greater than 10%, which also saw an attempt to get MPSC to change their meter rules get defeated. The Senator has introduced SJR M as an alternative way to try to reign in rules that don’t serve the people, especially in cases such as these where it is becoming obvious that Michigan’s utility monopolies are not being regulated enough to protect people who don’t have the freedom to take their business elsewhere.

IMPROVING ROAD QUALITY, SAVING COSTS

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If you’ve been driving on 7 Mile Road lately, you’ll notice that many of the recent “repairs” are not holding up well and already need new work done to them. It is not possible to always fully repair roads when they need it, and stopgap measures can sometimes be appropriate. In other cases we may be simply throwing good money after bad – and what we really need is to put money into long run repairs that might cost more initially but save us money and frustration in the long run.

Yet MDOT is in many cases reluctant to use products that are designed to make our roads last longer. That is one reason why Sen. Colbeck’s work on Quality Based Road Funding is still important. http://www.senatorpatrickcolbeck.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Road-Quality-Work-Group-Report.pdf

Senator Colbeck recently met with MDOT to push for changes in how innovative road products are reviewed and selected.

CYBER CIVILIAN CORPS

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Cyber Security Month is also a good time to learn about Michigan’s Cyber Civilian Corps (MiC3). The MiC3 is a group of trained cybersecurity experts who volunteer to provide expert assistance to enhance our state’s ability to rapidly resolve cyber incidents. The group includes volunteers from government, education, and business sectors. The mission of MiC3 is to implement a rapid response team to be activated under a Governor declared Cyber State of Emergency and to provide mutual aid to government, education, and business organizations such as our utility companies. This is in addition to Michigan’s dedicated staff and core 24/7 cybersecurity efforts.

Are you an expert in cybersecurity that would like to volunteers to be part of the MiC3? Membership is open to information security professionals who are residents of the state of Michigan. Applicants should have at least 2 years of direct involvement with information security, preferably security operations, incident response and/or digital or network forensics. Applicants must also have a basic security certification (ANSI-certified/DOD 8570 compliant certifications such as Security+, C|EH, CISSP, or GIAC certifications are strongly preferred). Applicants will also be required to pass a series of tests to demonstrate basic knowledge of networking and security concepts, as well as basic IR and forensics skills. Because of the time commitment (up to 10 days/year for training and exercises), applicants must provide evidence of employer support. Successful applicants will also be subject to background screening and sign a confidential disclosure agreement. Click HERE to apply.

OCTOBER OFFICE HOURS

Sen. Colbeck will hold district office hours in Livonia on Friday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m. until noon. The office hours will be held at the Livonia Civic Park Senior Center and are open to the public to meet with the Senator. No appointment is necessary.

Office Hours

“I encourage anyone who is experiencing problems with a state department or who wants to express viewpoints on legislation to come and attend,” Sen. Colbeck said.

“October has been a busy month and our office has been receiving numerous calls, particularly from people who have been threatened with a “shut-off notice” from DTE. Our office has found that many of these people should not be receiving such a notice. If you have been experiencing problems please let us know, it can obviously be disconcerting to receive a shut-off mailing just as the weather begins to turn cold. We have been working hard to get these errors cleared up with DTE and the MPSC to help give people peace of mind and to inform them of their rights.”

You can check to see the latest times and locations for future Sen. Colbeck office hours anytime by clicking HERE after they have been posted.

BREAST CANCER: GET THE FACTS

Breast Cancer: Get he Facts

People are sadly well aware of breast cancer, a cause of death that is tragically too common amongst ourselves, friends, and families. However, many frequent myths still need to be addressed. The National Breast Cancer Foundation has excellent resources available that you may wish to review. Many families have also found their "Frequently Asked Questions" FAQ helpful as well, particularly in regards to questions regarding hormone replacement therapy and help with finding breast cancer support groups.

PUMPKIN TIME AT THE PLYMOUTH LIBRARY

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Tuesday October 24th!

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM and 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Children will be able to decorate their own pumpkin so please dress for a mess! This program is for children ages 3-12 and their families (limit of one pumpkin per child). Registration is strictly limited, please call 734-453-0750 (select option 5) or stop by the Youth Desk and register in person!

https://plymouthlibrary.org/index.php/youth/youth-events

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THE MICHIGAN STATE SENATE
7th DISTRICT

Michigan’s 7th Senate District
 

The 7th State Senate District proudly serves the following areas: Canton Township, city of Livonia, city or Northville & Northville Township, city of Plymouth & Plymouth Township, and the City of Wayne.

Senator Patrick Colbeck

201 Townsend St., Suite #3400
P.O. Box 30036
Lansing, MI 48909-7536

Phone: (517) 373-7350

Email: SenPColbeck@senate.michigan.gov
Please include name, address, and phone number.

Visit my website at: www.SenatorPatrickColbeck.com
 

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

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