DTE was the Focus of Detroit’s Climate Strike

Climate Emergency and the DTE Headquarters. Photo by John Bozick
Climate Emergency and the DTE Headquarters. Photo by John Bozick
Climate Emergency and the DTE Headquarters. Photo by John Bozick

Climate Activists gathered in Grand Circus Park before making the trek to the DTE Headquarters in Downtown Detroit in support of the Work For Me DTE Campaign, which aims to challenge the upcoming DTE 2020 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). Part of a continuation of the global climate struggle, the lack of commitment to clean energy alternatives in the IRP led to the Campaign to be at the forefront of Detroit’s Climate Strike.

Speakers in Grand Circus Park Before the March to DTE. Photo by John Bozick
Speakers in Grand Circus Park Before the March to DTE. Photo by John Bozick

The Frontline Detroit Coalition, a coalition of activist groups committed to fighting for Frontline Communities, joined local activist groups in expressing support for a future that will better benefit communities such as Detroit, a prospect which the new DTE IRP seems to have ignored. In the proposal, the DTE plan retains support for current energy systems such as natural gas, while committing less to alternative energy solutions such as solar and wind, a move that will prove harmful in the long run for the already threatened Detroit community.

According to a statement put out in June by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the DTE plan, “feels both less ambitious and less committed on efficiency and renewables.” Between rate hikes and lack of commitment to green energy, the strike aimed to ensure DTE customers had their voices heard.

To put it briefly, activists want DTE to model their plan after the one put forward by Consumers Energy, which includes more commitment to renewable energy, and less focus on older, more harmful methods such as natural gas. While not perfect, the Consumers Energy Plan includes factoring in renewable energy over the next decade, and while DTE includes plans to utilize some renewables, it includes a provision for the establishment of more natural gas plants, something that Consumers Energy Plan does not.

Demonstrators March to DTE's Headquarters. Photo By John Bozick
Demonstrators March to DTE’s Headquarters. Photo By John Bozick

A factor that makes DTE’s plan more appalling is the fact that Detroit is a frontline, meaning that you must take real action to protect the people who live here from the adverse effects of climate change.

According to the environmental group Ecotrust, frontline communities “are communities of color and low-income, whose neighborhoods often lack basic infrastructure to support them and who will be increasingly vulnerable as our climate deteriorates.”

From the health issues found within the  48217 zip code to the recent announcement surrounding the potential radioactive contamination of the Detroit River, it is no doubt that this description fits the city of Detroit. Yet, these health issues are not the only cause for concern among Detroit’s environmentally concise community, as the DTE plan also raises concerns among low-income residents for another reason.

According to DTE Can Do Better, an initiative put forward by the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, Michigan families pay the highest rates in all of the Midwest, and DTE has raised rates a total of $775 million over the past five years. Another hike that comes at a time when DTE still performs up to 200,000 shut-offs each year.

For a low-income community like Detroit, investing in aspects such as solar and wind would not only be more affordable, but it would also help to end the shutoffs that do nothing more than harm those unable to afford their costly utilities.

Between health-related concerns, and the issue of rate hikes, the DTE IRP shows that the utility company is not respecting the integrity and wishes of its customers. If today’s Climate Strike was any indicator, it’s a sign that Detroit is ready for a green future, and if DTE does not listen to those its meant to serve, then perhaps the city could listen to the Metro Times when it suggests putting public utilities into the hands of the people, an idea which happened to be touted by famed former Detroit mayor, Hazen Pingree.

Fired up from an evening of striking and looking for what you can do next? DTE Can Do Better is currently working to ensure that every voice is heard, and you can submit your message to DTE on their website.

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