DETROIT (WXYZ) — A passionate and long public hearing went nearly three hours in downtown Detroit Monday night discussing a proposed rate hike from DTE Energy.
The energy company is requesting $388 million, which is an 8.8% increase. According to the request filed by the company, it could cost the average customer an extra $10.31 a month.
For the first time ever on a rate hike proposal, the Michigan Public Service Commission held a public hearing. No decision was made during the meeting.
“These DTE bills are ridiculous,” Detroit resident Monique Taylor said during public comment.
“I'm asking you deny this rate increase and let DTE figure it out from inside," another customer said. "Rearrange it somehow, but don't take it out of our pockets.”
The Michigan Public Services Commission heard nearly three hours of public comment overwhelmingly against the rate hike. Groups like the Defend Black Voters Coalition rallied in opposition.
"We want DTE to hear the stories of real people who are living through the everyday struggle of paying these electric bills," said Ken Whittaker, executive director of the Michigan People's Campaign. "You have a city that has an average income of much less than $50,000 — it’s not hard to imagine what an extra $20 or $30 on an electric bill would actually do.”
The rally outside went past the start of the meeting. DTE had representatives on hand.
"What this is all about is investment in the grid," DTE Energy Director of Community Engagement Rodney Cole said. “The grid needs investment. So every so often, you have to go in and do necessary maintenance and necessary repairs.”
The company says the rate hike is necessary to make those repairs and improve reliability, which comes after mass outages last summer. Cole says just under 3 million customers would be impacted by the 8.8% increase.
However, countless rate payers say the cost should fall on DTE, arguing that even a few extra dollars a month would hurt them more than an extra $388 million a year would hurt a $20 billion company.
"We can't even pay bus fare to get here, which is $2. So please do not raise our bills,” Taylor said.
The Michigan Public Service Commission says they will use the comments Monday night in their decision, which will be announced in November.