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Michigan Energy Reliability Task Force Announces Statewide Listening Tour

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by Lily Guiney, Michigan Advance

The newly-formed Michigan House Energy Reliability, Resilience, and Accountability (ERRA) Task Force announced on Thursday that it will embark on a statewide listening tour in June to hear citizens’ concerns and ideas after large swaths of the state dealt with weeks-long power outages in February. 

State Rep. Helena Scott (D-Detroit), who chairs the House Energy, Communications, and Technology Committee, said at a press conference in Lansing that the bipartisan ERRA Task Force will launch its tour in Lansing on June 9 and then spend the summer months traveling around the state. 

Scott said that the goal of the tour is to hear from residents who lost power during the outages and then develop policy recommendations to address their needs. 

“This task force aims to create a comprehensive statewide package of reforms that will support customer protection, promote affordable access to energy and ensure infrastructure dependability,” Scott said. “So one of the first steps in creating a meaningful package of reforms is just listening to our residents and stakeholders.” 

Some of the issues residents faced during the power outages included medications being spoiled by extreme temperatures, loss of internet access, and mothers being unable to breastfeed their children. Some people who lost heat for several days had to stay with relatives or in hotels to avoid freezing temperatures. 

Scott said that the task force, which was formed in response to the February outages, hopes to take all of these experiences into account and begin to craft legislation as the tour progresses. The Detroit lawmaker also solicited input about the February outages from utility companies during a House Energy, Communications and Technology Committee hearing in March.

“As we are going out in public and we’re listening to the needs and concerns of the constituents, we will also be developing legislation to make changes every step of the way,” Scott said. “So our plan will be to have a very comprehensive package at the end of the tour so that we can present it when we come back in session in September.”

The task force is made up of nine state representatives: Scott, Joey Andrews (D-St. Joseph), Jenn Hill (D-Marquette), Cynthia Neely (D-Flint), Amos O’Neal (D-Saginaw), Abraham Aiyash (D-Hamtramck), John Fitzgerald (D-Grand Rapids), Pat Outman (R-Six Lakes), and Pauline Wendzel (R-Watervliet). 

Scott said that the task force’s legislative goals include expanding state oversight of the power grid, reducing reactivation and response times for future outages, and investment in updated energy infrastructure. 

“We’ve already started that when we had conversations via committee hearings, town halls and speaking with the community members, but we want to make sure we’re involved in the whole conversation and that we hear all voices,” Scott said.

This story was written by Lily Guiney, a reporting intern at the Michigan advance, where this story first appeared.

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