Militant Journalism

Putting profits over people results in thousands without power in Detroit

Tens of thousands in Detroit and the outlying suburbs are still without power following a thunderstorm on August 29 that caused days-long power outages for hundreds of thousands in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. This comes on the heels of a proposed rate hike by DTE, the Detroit-based energy company supplying power to the Southeast Michigan area. 

DTE has requested the authority from the Michigan Public Services Commission — the state agency that regulates Michigan utility companies — to hike up electricity rates by 8.8% for customers of the private utility company. The purported reason for the rate increase is “to recover the costs associated with significant investments in distribution, generation and customer service.” This could not be further from the truth. While DTE reaped over $2 billion in profits in 2021, routine power outages affect hundreds of thousands of people any time a storm rolls through the area. 

The power outage map on DTE’s website shows how DTE’s business operations hit the most exploited workers in the Detroit area the hardest. The decades-old energy infrastructure has well-known problems that are left unaddressed for many residents because it is not profitable to do so.

In accordance with Michigan law, DTE has offered a paltry $25 credit to customers suffering from power outages. The Michigan Public Services Commission informed residents that they can request the credit under three extremely stringent conditions: an outage of more than 120 hours under “catastrophic conditions,” an outage of more than 16 hours under non-catastrophic conditions, or eight or more outages within a 12-month period. This response is not enough to compensate people for the harm they endure during power outages, such as inoperable refrigerators and freezers causing food to spoil or critical medical equipment unable to function without power.

There have been calls to bring DTE and other privately-owned utility companies under public control like other cities have across the country. The capitalists have resisted this notion and even lesser demands for decades by spending millions on lobbying efforts to bribe public officials to resist any reform.

Jason Tschantre, a resident of the Northend neighborhood of Detroit, told Liberation News how the outages affected his family and neighbors. “My entire block was out from Monday night until Thursday afternoon. I lost a fridge and a basement freezer full of food, and all my neighbors lost food too. This happens to us at least once a year,” Tschantre said. “We have two kids and two full-time working parents, so it’s stressful to try and manage without electricity. It turned our life upside-down.”

Feature photo: DTE, a privately-owned company that supplies energy to the Southeast Michigan area, was responsible for widespread power outages. Liberation photo

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