U.P. residents call for better energy at task force meeting

MARQUETTE — Upper Peninsula residents are calling for more reliable and less expensive energy.

The bipartisan Energy Reliability, Resilience and Accountability Task Force stopped on Friday at Northern Michigan University to hear from residents and local business owners about energy needs and how they were affected by recent power outages.

The listening tour was the only U.P. stop in the several stops being made across the state to gather feedback to be brought back to Lansing and develop “data-driven policies that deliver dependable energy solutions,” according to an ERRA press release.

The task force was created in response to widespread, prolonged power outages that occurred earlier this year after severe storms.

‘When we came together from both sides of the aisle to create the ERRA Task Force, we promised to address concerns over the large-scale power outages we’ve seen across the state during storms,’ said state Rep. Helena Scott, D-Detroit, who chairs the ERRA Task Force as well as the House Committee on Energy, Communications, and Technology, in a press release.

State Rep. Jenn Hill, D-Marquette, was one of the task force members who attended the meeting. In a press release, Hill said U.P. communities have “unique needs when it comes to energy.”

“My fellow legislators and I are going to take their voices with us back to Lansing, as we create smart policies to increase the reliability of our grid and decrease energy costs, Hill said. Making renewable energy more accessible to Michigan residents is also a big priority for me this is a key factor in protecting our natural resources and creating a sustainable future for Michigan.

Residents and local business owners were given a two-hour period during the meeting to relate their personal experiences with energy, express concerns and talk about desired outcomes.

We the People Michigan Action Fund rural organizing director Megan Hess said she remembers sweating at her kitchen table as a college student trying to pay her bill as a former Upper Peninsula Power Company customer.

“We’re here to talk about utility influence in democracy and how really we need these lawmakers to be acting on behalf of the community and not the interests of utilities,” Hess said.

She said for years people in the U.P. have struggled with high electric rates and have a lack of options for clean distributed energy.

Hess also said that residents with medical equipment suffer with power outages.

One resident from Chassell said during this year’s storm, he counted five outages in one day, each one lasting a minimum of 30 minutes. He said such power outages can lead to serious problems for residents who rely on medical equipment, such as dialysis and CPAP.

“People like my neighbor might not be able to make it through those situations if they rely on emergency services, if roads are frozen and (they) live (a) potential 20 to 30 minutes from the nearest emergency access,” he said. “We need consistent, reliable power to make sure these types of things don’t become life or death for my neighbors and people like me.”

Houghton resident Miriam Pickens said she has friends who are working three jobs and have experienced power shutoffs because they can’t pay their bill.

“I am hoping for an income-based rate, taking utility money out of politics and an electric company who listens to us,” Pickens said.

The two hours worth of feedback from the listening tour will be brought back to Lansing to develop data-driven policies that deliver dependable energy solutions along with feedback from other stops being made, according to the press release.

“Be assured that we are here because we care and we want to make change,” Scott said.

For more information and to watch the U.P. listening tour, visit Scott’s Facebook at facebook.com/StateRepHelenaScott.


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