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Court of Appeals OK's Consumers Energy rate hike, smart meter plans

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Public Service Commission acted appropriately when it signed off on a 2015 rate hike for Consumers Energy customers, the Michigan Court of Appeals said in a ruling this week.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and groups representing business and residential Consumers customers sued to overturn the new rates.

They said Consumers didn’t make a strong enough case for the 10.3% rate hike.

Consumers, which is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors, said it needed the extra revenue to improve service, comply with environmental regulations, and invest in new technologies like smart meters.

The Michigan Public Service Commission agreed. And the Court of Appeals now says it won’t overturn the MPSC’s ruling, which the court called “lawful and reasonable.”

The court also gave the go-ahead to Consumers’ plans to implement smart meters, shooting down arguments that the MPSC lacked authority to implement that program, and failed to consider issues like privacy concerns. It likewise found no problem with Consumers’ plan to charge an “opt-out fee” to customers who choose to keep traditional meters, saying those are “designed to cover the additional costs of providing service to those customers.”

It’s not immediately clear whether Schuette or any of the other plaintiffs plan to take the case any further.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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