6 posts categorized "Utilities"


Mental lightweights? Feds say men at Philips harassed, exposed themselves to female worker

The spotlight is on Philips Lighting Entertainment after the only female employee in its Dallas warehouse was barraged by sexual remarks, called a slut and had a male employee expose himself Light bulb (presumably in excellent lighting), according to a suit by the federal government.
Put a light bulb above our head, we just had a profound thought: Sexually hostile environments bad.
The woman was hired by Philips Lighting Entertainment in May  2007 as a temporary employee and became a permanent Warehouse Lead in September 2007, according to a suit by the Equal Employment Opportunity  Commission. Even before  becoming a permanent employee, the EEOC says she experienced unwelcome sexually vulgar comments, advances, and touches by the warehouse  manager and by several male warehouse workers.
“She endured unwanted  touches, requests for sexual relations, money being rubbed on her body, forced  kisses, derogatory names such as 'b---h' and 'slut,' " the EEOC said. One dim-bulb is accused of exposing himself to her on the job, the EEOC said. The woman reported the harassment to management but nothing was done to stop the  conduct or impose timely discipline on the harassers. Ultimately,  the woman resigned.
Philips Lighting Entertainment, a Division of Philips Electronics North America Corp., has not yet filed a response to the suit in federal court and has no lawyer listed.

-- Darren Barbee


'Swirly' fears caused garbage company to toss out dyslexic worker, lose $95,000

The nation’s third largest waste disposal company will pay $95,000 to settle a disability suit in which they fired a man out of fear that his dyslexia would cause him to see things “swirly.”

And here we thought swirly meant sticking someone’s head in the toilet and flushing, which is, on second thought, kind of what they did to this guy.  Flushy

Apparently the folks working at a subsidiary of IESI Corporation — yes, we’re talking about garbage here — were concerned the employee would have an accident, perhaps such as erroneously rearranging the letters in a word like “bass ackwards.”

According to a federal suit, on the morning of August 12, 2005, a former truck driver, Ronald Harper, told his new supervisor that he is dyslexic. Just four hours later, the supervisor fired Harper, stating that he did not want to take the chance of Harper’s dyslexia causing problems. 

After contending for five years that Harper did not have a disability and that he was not fired because of a disability, IESI admitted shortly before a scheduled trial date that Harper does have a disability, that he was qualified to do his job and that IESI dismissed him because of his disability in violation of federal law, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed the suit. IESI further conceded that the supervisor who fired Harper had failed to engage in the interactive process regarding reasonable accommodation required by federal law. 

“I am grateful to the EEOC for seeking justice on my behalf,” the man said. “I felt really good about the work I was doing and the compliments co-workers and other supervisors gave me on my performance. Then the company fired me out of the blue, just because I am dyslexic. Nobody had ever spoken to me like that in my life. For the first time in five years, I have my confidence back. I am also glad that the EEOC will be able to monitor the company to make sure that what happened to me does not happen to someone else with a disability.”

-- Darren Barbee


Searching for a solution on smart meters

[From Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber:]

OK, I admit this question of smart meters and their accuracy does keep me up at night. North Texans are watching as their old meters are replaced with digital meters. Then some say their electric bills soar after the changeover.

I can't figure out if the meters are bad or if the customers are paying too much on their bills or suffering because of poorly insulated homes. Possibly, the new meters are catching up with them.

March 2010 093

(These devices will soon be in most people's home to help show consumers how much electricity they are truly using.)

In three months, we'll probably the know the answer after a company hired by the Public Utility Commission of Texas completes its investigation.

In the meantime, I'm open to ideas from anyone about what is really going on. That's why I appreciate the letter from Brad Walsh of Grapevine, who tosses out some good ideas in this debate. He gave me permission to publish his letter in full. It will get you thinking:

"Mr. Lieber, Thanks for the Sunday piece about Oncor smart meters.  We have yet to get one installed, but I was (and mostly still am) eager to see this step taken, as part of modernizing the nation's power grid.

"I suspect (with admittedly no evidence so far) that what's going on is this.  Oncor for years was probably charging average household rates, rarely checking meters (it's too costly in manpower to do more than spot-check, I suspect--I haven't seen an actual meter reader in our neighborhood in a couple of years, and I suspect Oncor isn't eager to admit it).  Once smart meters hit, Oncor can remotely check meters, and people are now seeing a truer picture of what they're using.  The people who are getting hit with high bills are likely just one end of the distribution of bills.  Who would picket and sign petitions and join websites after finding out they're paying significantly LESS post-smart meter installation? 

"I would hope that people with hefty bills post-smart meter would look more closely at their utilization.  I've heard from some pro-grid reform writers that devices like certain chargers are what are called "vampires," continually sucking small amounts of energy 24-7 just to keep whatever they're charging at 100% full charge, and can sneak power utilization way up.  A combination of having vampires, an older air conditioner, two fridges and a tv that's left on all the time would put you in that top 10% of household utilization bills that would send people protesting. 

"I wish I had more hard data, maybe that's something you can facilitate, with research with Oncor or a call for a broader range of stories from your readers with smart meters.  But until we get more information, I suspect it's an instance of supply-and-demand being brought to bear for the first time on people who haven't been aware of their own utilization.  There will be winners and losers.  Bottom line, the smart meter sticker shock debate may just be the first painful wakeup call that we can't keep doing business as usual, because we're all paying for the power wasters' consumption. Brad Walsh"

Gets you thinking about your own household, doesn't it?

 # # #

Read Dave Lieber's latest report on smart meters from the Star-Telegram here


The best way for Texans to save money

[From Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber}

What's the best and easiest way for you to save money?

Saving on your monthly electric bill, of course.

If you shop around, you can cut your bill by 35 percent or more.

But a lot of Texans don't really know how to shop for electricity. It's complicated.Electricity view

But now the state of Texas, recognizing this crisis in many Texas households, has taken an active role in leading a much-needed campaign. The state always sponsored its www.PowertoChoose.org Web site. But now the Public Utility Commission of Texas has also released a new brochure to show Texans how to shop.

Here is the link to How to Shop for a Retail Electric Provider. The rest of the state's resource guides are here.

You really can slash your electric bills -- if you are not in a mandatory electric coop.

Please share this information with your family and friends.


Doctor accused of having track marks between his toes should have hit the brakes

A doctor is accused of being doped up when he ran into a utility pole, several mailboxes and finally a tree. His medical license was temporarily suspended this week by the Texas Medical Board.
Board documents paint one wild and crazy night for the Palestine ophthalmologist.
Dr. Alan Dale Shiller is reported to have left behind his utility pole dancing incidentPole only to slide off a highway, drive “through” several mailboxes and a telephone box. 
Shiller's vehicle then smashed into a tree, according to board documents.
The Dec. 4 accident(s) attracted the attention of state troopers who believed that Shiller was under the influence of a drug, according to board documents,
At the Palestine Regional Medical Center, emergency room staff found an empty 100 mg Demerol vial in Shiller’s pants pocket, the board documents say. Demerol is a narcotic.
At the hospital, a state trooper continued his interview of Shiller. The trooper noticed “numerous track marks on the top, side, and in-between (Shiller’s) toes.”
Shiller told the trooper he did not take any illegal drugs or any prescription medications prior to the accident.
However, a toxicology screen performed at the hospital came back positive for barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opiates, and phencyclidine, the board documents say.
Shiller said he took Effexor, an antidepressant, and propanalol, which is used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems.
By the way, Shiller was no stranger to the emergency room. He was on call that night at the hospital, according to the state board.

Shiller was on vacation and couldn't be reached for comment.

-- Darren Barbee


North Texans hungering for information about lowering electric bills

From Star-Telegram Watchdog columnist Dave Lieber: 

A recent Dave Lieber Watchdog column about a seniors community in Fort Worth complaining about their high TXU Energy electric bills electrified many readers. More than 600 readers visited my post -- Dave Lieber's Guide to Electricity Savings -- and hundreds more e-mailed me at watchdog@star-telegram to ask for a copy.

   All in only two days!   Of all the letters I received, this one tops the list. Can you imagine what it's like to move to Texas and face this wild west of electricity we deal with in Texas?

# # #

   From: B

   Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 10:38 AM

   To: WatchDog

   Subject: Electric Bill Nightmare...$1,064!!!! 

   Hello Mr. Lieber. My family moved to Fort Worth, Texas from Southern California last February and we have never experienced electricity bills like we have here. I saw your article in the Sunday paper and wanted to ask a question. I found out that we are paying eleven cents per kilowatt with TXU on a month to month plan.

   According to "Electric Choice For Texas" agent, they found a company called MX Energy that would charge 8.3 cents. I have read a number of articles on fixed vs. month to month but I don't seem to understand.

   I have an 88 year old mom who needs the heat on so we are, in fact, using more than most people. However, I don't know how to make the choice of fixed vs. month to month based on need. I don't even know if I'm asking the question so you understand me but I am hoping you will respond and help me out of this nightmare.

  I can tell  you that according to the graph on the TXU statement, we used excess electricity in March because we were not familiar with the additional cost to run the pool that was here. We have since been able to contain the cost on this rental house and until November, 2009. Never had a bill that was over $400, including the hot season using A/C.  December's bill was $746 and January was $1,064...I can't really turn the heat down too much because of my mother's needs, but I do need direction on how to purchase the correct plan. Can you help?  This is beyond our understanding.

   P.S. The owner has not been able to provide us a solution. They sent several people out....one changed the thermostat and it got worse from there!! TXU told me today that the problem could very possibly be old wiring and heating unit (my husband says it is at least 25 years old) but beyond all this information, I am still struggling to make the correct changes.   

# # #

My response:



Welcome to Texas. I am sorry that you got hit with this. But along with the big blue sky and kind people there are these nasty electric bills, usually just in the summer, but this is the coldest winter in my memory.


Your house has some kind of problem. Good that it is a rental. Sometimes a house is so old or poorly insulated that nothing can correct it without more insulation in walls and attics, etc.


A thousand dollar a month bill is unheard of -- unless we are talking about a 5,000 square foot mansion or more. You didn't say. Good that it is a rental.


11 cents is pretty low. You might drop two cents to 9, but it won't correct a bill that large to make a major difference. Your problems are more likely structural or a bad meter or window and door leaks, etc. You can hire someone to come in and give you an assessment.


Fixed or variable?


This is like gambling.


Do you want to play the "markets" and hope the price of natural gas (on which electricity rates are based) stays low (variable), or do you want to play it safe and get a fixed rate that will never change?


If you're not a gambler, you might like fixed. Some worry that if there's a Mideast oil crisis, the rates could skyrocket on a variable rate quite quickly.


However, to get a fixed rate, you have to sign a contract, and since you are in a troubled rental house, you might want to stick with month to month because you might be moving.


Again, welcome to Texas, and I'm glad to hear from you. Let me know how else I can help.