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Final polar vortex report calls for improvements, legislation on state energy supply and delivery

Snowshoeing in northern Michigan
Emma Winowiecki
Michigan Radio

There are multiple steps Michigan should take to ensure that there’s enough energy for homes and businesses if we have another polar vortex this winter.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer directed the Michigan Public Service Commission to figure out if Michigan’s energy system can handle extreme weather. This was after a cold snap across the state resulted in the shutdown of schools, businesses, and government offices.

“We have a strong system and we’re well positioned to adapt to the changing energy landscape, but there’s always opportunities for improvements,” said MPSC Chair Sally Talberg.

One of those recommendations is to keep the trees trimmed.

“That’s the number one reason why customers experience power outages, is trees coming into contact with lines,” said Talberg.

This is part of a larger call to strengthen the state’s energy infrastructure. Other recommendations include developing more diverse sources of energy across the state, creating a formal backup plan for propane supply and delivery, and developing rules for cyber security and incident reporting for natural gas utilities.

Talberg said the commission is working on rules for utilities to follow – but those take about a year to finalize. The commission also plans to work with the governor and the Legislature to ensure the recommendations are put into action.

Before becoming the newest Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network, Cheyna Roth was an attorney. She spent her days fighting it out in court as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Ionia County. Eventually, Cheyna took her investigative and interview skills and moved on to journalism. She got her masters at Michigan State University and was a documentary filmmaker, podcaster, and freelance writer before finding her home with NPR. Very soon after joining MPRN, Cheyna started covering the 2016 presidential election, chasing after Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and all their surrogates as they duked it out for Michigan. Cheyna also focuses on the Legislature and criminal justice issues for MPRN. Cheyna is obsessively curious, a passionate storyteller, and an occasional backpacker. Follow her on Twitter at @Cheyna_R
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