The Sierra Club has filed a complaint against Michigan’s largest electric utility, DTE Electric Company, alleging that a 250-mile, multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project owned by its affiliate, NEXUS Gas Transmission, LLC, threatens to monopolize the market for the generation of electricity in Michigan. The complaint alleges that the pipeline project, if permitted to continue, will raise retail electricity customers’ rates above competitive levels and exclude more cost-effective energy suppliers, including renewable energy sources.
The complaint was filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), United States Department of Justice, and the Federal Trade Commission. It alleges that while electric utilities like DTE Electric have legal monopolies to sell electricity to ratepayers, they cannot use that monopoly to gain control over the market for generating capacity. According to the complaint, the NEXUS project uses DTE Electric’s power to charge ratepayers for the project’s above-market costs in order to expand its presence in the generation market. DTE Electric already controls about 50% of the local electricity generation market, according to the complaint.
The Sierra Club’s complaint comes on the heels of an antitrust complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission by a retired Department of Justice Antitrust Division attorney regarding the Atlantic Coast Pipeline Project, a 600-mile proposed gas pipeline co-owned by electric utilities Dominion Resources and Duke Energy. According to the latter complaint, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline gives Dominion and Duke unlawful monopoly power in the market for utility-scale electricity generation.
The Club’s FTC complaint in the FERC proceeding is part of a motion to dismiss filed on November 16 by Michigan members who oppose NEXUS’ application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity.