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Protesters target DTE Energy

Many people are worried about a long, cold winter ahead for low-income people who could face utility shutoffs.

That’s particularly true in Detroit, where dozens of people protestedabout the issue in front of DTE Energy headquarters.

The protesters want DTE to end utility shutoffs in the winter months, and create a rate structure that better accommodates the elderly, disabled, and poor.

Fatimah Mohammed-el says DTE has shut off her service before, even though she was on a modified payment plan.

“Before it was me, I knew other people. And I can name quite a few people that I know who won’t even get gas stoves, you know…things like that,” Mohammed-el says. “They just went off of electricity, because the two in combination are unbearable.”

Mohammed-el and others say the coming winter is a particular concern because of  dwindling aid for heating assistance programs.

Michelle Martinez is with the People and Energy Coalition, which organized the demonstration.

She says the protesters want a “permanent, affordable, alternative rate structure” for struggling households.

"Some families are paying 50-75 percent of their income, especially seniors who are on a fixed income,” Martinez says. “So we’re asking that DTE do a budget plan that would be income-based.”

Martinez also says in the long term, DTE should invest more in helping households with energy efficiency, and in clean energy sources.

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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