Michigan's Corrupt and Dysfunctional Energy Monopolies
by Steven Meyer
Most of the energy supply and distribution grid in the State of Michigan is controlled by two regional monopolies, DTE and Consumers Energy. In August 2021, high winds left about half a million people without power in the state, some for up to a week. Monroe’s Representative, Joe Bellino responded to that, "as the chairman of the energy committee, I am going to hold their feet to the fire” (1). If anything, those corporations enjoyed the way that Bellino clung to their feet, because as Bridge Magazine noted, “Of all sitting lawmakers... Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, received the most direct contribution from the two company PACs, totaling $57,500 between 2017 and 2022” (2). In 2021, Bellino became subject to an Ethics complaint for violating Campaign and Lobby Acts by accepting excessive gifts from DTE PAC, which gave a “reported total” of $4,670 to cover Bellino’s golf tournament fees while he was Chair of the Energy Committee
(3). That was undeniably corrupt, but the people in charge of making laws against such things are the ones that DTE is paying to frolic around on golf resorts.
The conservative Mackinac Center agrees that Michigan’s energy monopolies are dysfunctional, resulting in worse service and higher rates than in neighboring states (4). DTE’s slow response to outages endangers public safety. In 2022, both children and adults were critically injured and killed from encounters with downed power lines. The most recent Annual Report by Michigan Public Service Commission correctly forecasted those dangers will worsen with climate change and the aging grid (5). We in Monroe already experienced worse effects during the weeks of outages last month. At the least, DTE should be legally prohibited from lobbying, gifting, and
donating to any politicians.
1: August 30, 2021 – Detroit News article where Joe Bellino lied about promising to hold DTE’s
feet to the fire and regulate them. (Requires Subscription)
2: March 6, 2023 – Article by Bridge Michigan describing how of all sitting lawmakers, Joe
Bellino has received the most money from the DTE PAC. https://www.bridgemi.com/michigan-government/utilities-gave-big-michigan-lawmakers-now-weighing-reforms-records-show
3: September 16, 2021 – Progress Michigan’s Complaint against Bellino and DTE for Violating
Campaign Finance and Lobby Acts for DTE giving and Bellino accepting gifts to his campaign for
Golf events in far in excess of the legal gift limits between lobbyists and legislators:
4: February 28, 2023 – Article by “Michigan Capitol Confidential” under the control of The
Mackinac Center for Public Policy a Right-wing Policy Thinktank discussing the Monopolies that
DTE and Consumers Energy have over Michigan’s Energy utilities, and how their rates are
substantially higher than in neighboring states.
5: March 6, 2023 – Annual Report by Michigan Public Service Commission addressing “reliability
challenges in Michigan’s electric grid”. Note: The scope of that report only covered 2022, and so
it did not address the outages in the weeks prior to its publication.