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Consumers Energy Marks Milestone as Natural Gas Crews Head East; Utility Increases its Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts

JACKSON, Mich., Nov. 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- For the first time in its 125-year history, Consumers Energy is sending natural gas crews to assist with storm restoration work outside of Michigan, with about 25 employees leaving Tuesday to join more than 300 other utility employees and contractors already providing assistance in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

While electric line crews and other employees historically have provided mutual assistance in parts of the United States after hurricanes and other strong storms, the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast has Consumers Energy dispatching natural gas teams for the first time, said Michele Kirkland, the utility's vice president of energy operations.

Consumers Energy gas crews and support staff from across the state will leave from Dundee, Mich. late Tuesday morning for West Hempstead, N.Y., approximately 30 miles east of New York City. They will be gone for up to two weeks. Work will primarily consist of replacing damaged gas regulators and re-lighting individual gas services in coordination with local utility National Grid.

"The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc not only on the electric grid but also the natural gas distribution systems, especially in New York and New Jersey. This is especially critical when most customers heat their homes and businesses with natural gas and cold temperatures continue," Kirkland said. "National Grid reports its gas restoration work is now focused in the New York City and Long Island areas, which is where we're headed. This is a first for our company, and I'm proud to have our gas crews join our electric crews to help the millions of people affected by this historic storm."

Last Thursday, Consumers Energy sent about 35 electric line workers and support staff to Cleveland to assist utility First Energy. An additional 15 utility employees were sent to Cleveland Saturday. With that work now completed, the 50 employees were en route Monday to Oceanport, N.J. to assist First Energy with restoration efforts.

Oct. 28, before Hurricane Sandy made landfall, Consumers Energy sent 14 engineering support personnel to assist First Energy's Potomac Edison Company in Hagerstown, Md. Since arriving, the group has performed electric equipment damage assessments in Maryland, West Virginia and currently is in New Jersey. In addition, the utility has released 250 contract workers specializing in electric distribution line repair and tree and debris removal to assist First Energy and National Grid utilities.

Thirty Consumers Energy employees sent last Wednesday to assist Detroit Edison in southeast Michigan completed their restoration work Saturday morning and have returned to their regular work headquarters.

"I appreciate the willingness of our crews to spend an extended time away from their homes and families to help the Hurricane Sandy victims," Kirkland said. "These East Coast residents have now been without electric and natural gas service for a week; the work being performed by Consumers Energy and our contractors is vital to helping these victims get their lives back in order."

Kirkland said there are sufficient Consumers Energy staffing levels remaining in the state as the hurricane work continues.

"While we are reaching out to assist those most affected by Hurricane Sandy, our customers can rest assured we have adequate staffing here in Michigan to address any issues," she said.

Consumers Energy, the principal subsidiary of CMS Energy (NYSE: CMS), provides natural gas and electricity to 6.8 million of Michigan's 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

For more information regarding Consumers Energy, visit us at www.consumersenergy.com or join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/consumersenergymichigan

SOURCE Consumers Energy

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