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WHITE LAKE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A series of severe thunderstorms has hit Michigan's Lower Peninsula, packing winds of up to 50 miles per hour that knocked down trees, ripped roofs off buildings and blacked out at least 150,000 homes and businesses.

The National Weather Service says a trained spotter reports 1.75-inch hail struck Oakland County's White Lake Township in suburban Detroit on Sunday afternoon. It reports 50 mph wind gusts in neighboring Macomb County.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

After days of worry, demolition crews successfully brought down part of one downtown Jackson landmark without damaging another.

Demolition crews have spent months gutting the old Consumers Energy headquarters in Jackson.

But Thursday, part of the building started leaning precariously toward a century and a half old church next door.  First Congregational Church and other nearby buildings were evacuated as a precaution.

 

THETFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Consumers Energy is taking steps toward its planned 700-megawatt natural gas-fired power plant in Michigan's Genesee County.

The Jackson-based utility filed Friday for approval of a certificate of necessity with the Michigan Public Service Commission. The filing is allowed under the state's energy reform law.

Chief Executive Officer John Russell says the filing establishes the plant "is in the best long-term interests of Michigan."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Consumers Energy meter readers may soon start making their rounds with a police escort.

The Jackson-based utility announced it is implementing a new aggressive dog policy.

Spokesman Roger Morgenstern says last year more than a dozen Consumers meter readers were attacked or threatened by dogs.

“The fact is this is the customer’s home. The customers have a right to have pets,” says Morgenstern, “So we’re hoping this would strike a right compromise.”

Michigan utilities are making their own preparations for Hurricane Sandy.

The storm is expected to strike the East Coast later today, but the hurricane's outer bands are being felt as far west as Michigan.

“Well, right now we’re monitoring the storm….and seeing how it might impact our southeast Michigan service area,” says Scott Simon, a DE Energy spokesman.

DTE has already freed up about a hundred contract linemen to help restore electric power in the Mid-Atlantic States that are expected to take the brunt of Hurricane Sandy.

DETROIT (AP) - Utility workers are battling high temperatures as they work to restore electricity to tens of thousands of Michigan homes and businesses without power following thunderstorms this week.

DTE Energy said early Saturday about 45,000 of its customers were without power, mostly in Oakland and Wayne counties. Consumers Energy reported about 23,700 of its customers without power.

Most of those without electricity lost service after storms late Wednesday and Thursday. DTE says most of its customers should have power back by Saturday night.

charlesandhudson.com

Electric utilities in Michigan are expecting to see a big spike in demand today, as temperatures are expected to climb to 100 degrees in parts of Michigan.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The city of Jackson’s economy is getting a big boost.

An India-based IT company announced today it will expand its operation in the mid-Michigan city.

HCL Technologies LLC is a global IT services company with 90 thousand employees.    The training and development hub its opening in Jackson will create several hundred jobs during the next few years.

Rajeev Sawhney is a vice president with HCL.   He says the training center should employ 300 people within the next two years.

"And possibly 500 people given that most of our Midwest clients have shown a lot of interest in wanting to avail of the facilities that will come out of this center in Jackson," says Sawhney.

HCL is partnering with Jackson-based Consumer Energy, which will allow the utility’s employees to receive advanced technology training. 

The hundreds of new jobs will be welcome in Jackson, which like many Michigan cities has seen a long decline in job opportunities.

 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected an effort by Jackson-based Consumers Energy to reverse a state order that it repay $85 million to its customers.     

Consumers Energy’s customers are not getting any new money back from the utility.   Consumers already repaid the $85 Million a year ago.  

But the legal fight over the state’s order has continued since then.  

(flickr sgreech)

Thousands of Michiganders could lose access to tens of millions of dollars in home heating assistance this winter. Last month, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that Consumers Energy no longer has to collect money from its natural gas customers for a low-income energy assistance program.

Consumers Energy customers may see their monthly electric bills increase by the end of the year.  The Jackson-based utility wants to increase the average customer’s bill by more than seven dollars a month.  Jeff Holyfield  is a Consumers Energy spokesman. 

“The increase we have requested in this rate case primarily reflects the major investments…nearly a billion dollars that  Consumers Energy is making to maintain and improve service to its 1.8 million electric customers and to improve the environment.”   

Christoper Sessums / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - Utilities say they're working to complete power restoration after severe thunderstorms hit southern Michigan earlier in the week.

About 9,000 homes and businesses were without power around midday Wednesday. Thunderstorms on Monday blacked out about 218,000 customers.

CMS Energy Corp. says about 5,700 of its 136,000 customers affected Monday still were blacked out late Wednesday morning. DTE Energy Co. says that about 3,000 of its 82,000 affected customers remained blacked out around midday Wednesday.

The storms were linked to two deaths in Michigan.

The Detroit Free Press reports high winds also blew bricks from the David Whitney Building in Detroit onto part of Grand Circus Park, damaging a People Mover station. Service by the elevated train system was limited Monday and Tuesday, and was being shut down Wednesday for repairs.

Ted Van Pelt / Flickr

Three big corporations in Michigan released their first quarter results today and according to the numbers, business is booming.

Dow Chemical exceeds expectations (Midland, Michigan)

The company says "sales rose 20% to $14.7 billion versus the year-ago period, with double-digit increases in all operating segments and all geographic areas."

As Andrew Dodson of Booth-Mid Michigan pointed out, analysts had expected Dow to achieve $13.8 billion in sales.

Dow's earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (a measure of a company's operating cash flow) went up more than $600 million to $2.4 billion, "the second highest quarter in the Company's history," according to Dow.

CMS Energy reports net income of $135 million (Jackson, Michigan)

CMS Energy's principal business is Consumers Energy. The Jackson-based company's reported income of $135 million translates into $0.52 per share, for the first quarter of 2011. That's compared to a net income of $85 million, or $0.34 per share, for the same quarter last year.

From the company's press release:

The first quarter results reflect colder than normal winter temperatures that boosted natural gas and electric sales at the company’s Michigan utility, Consumers Energy. Those sales increases partially were offset by costs the utility incurred in restoring service to electric customers after a series of unusually severe winter storms.

Penske Automotive has strong quarter (Bloomfield Hills, Michigan)

Penske Automotive Group Chairman, Roger Penske, said, "our first quarter results exceeded my expectations. I am particularly pleased with the same-store retail revenue growth generated in all lines of our business.

From Businesswire:

[Penske] reported a 51.7% increase in first quarter income from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders to $36.4 million, which compares to income from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders of $24.0 million in the first quarter last year. Earnings per share from continuing operations attributable to common shareholders increased 50.0% to $0.39 per share from $0.26 per share in the first quarter last year. Total revenue in the first quarter increased 15.3% to $2.9 billion, including an 11.6% increase in same-store retail revenues, due in large part to increases in new and used retail vehicle unit sales.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Consumers Energy has been busy this week reconnecting tens of thousands of customers who lost power during last Sunday's ice & snow storm.  So it could be argued the utility was due some good news.  Today CMS Energy announced the Jackson-based utility profits increased last year.   

User anotherpioneer / Flickr

The ice storm was Sunday, but it may tomorrow or Friday before the last Consumers Energy customer who lost power will get their electricity restored.   195,000 thousand CMS utility customers lost power after the storm that dumped a half foot or more of snow and ice on Michigan at the beginning of the week. 

About 44,000 are still without power, says  Garrick Rochow, vice president of energy delivery for the utility:

UPDATE 3:50pm