Judge Rules Electric Utility’s Smart Meter Opt Out Fees Violate State Law; PSREC Refuses to Reconnect

IMG_0802PLUMAS-SIERRA RURAL ELECTRIC COOPERATIVE ACTED ILLEGALLY WHEN IT CUT OFF ELECTRICITY TO HART FAMILY

QUINCY, CA — A utility cooperative in rural Northern California has been ordered by Plumas County Superior Court Judge Janet Hilde to:

 “…cancel the opt out fee and monthly fee for reading the analog meter, allowing Plaintiff (StopSmartMeters.org Director Josh Hart) to self-read the analog meter.”

The decision last week comes 14 months after Plumas Sierra Rural Electric Cooperative (PSREC) cut the electric wires to the Hart household in February 2014 though the family have paid for their full electric usage minus the illegal “opt out” fees.  During that time, they have been living without electricity in an all-electric home in the Sierra Nevada mountains, without either a fridge or hot running water, depending on a wood stove for heat, cooking, and heating water. The family is continuing to hold out and have refused to sign PSREC’s proposed agreement that would have traded Mr. Hart’s silence about the dispute over the utility’s hazardous smart meters for restoration of electricity service.  “We refuse to be extorted, coerced, or silenced,” says Plaintiff and veteran anti-smart meter organizer Josh Hart.  “It’s about time PSREC is held to account for its flagrant violations of disability rights.  The court’s decision has vindicated our standing up to the utility and confirmed that PSREC is indeed violating the law. They must obey the law and reconnect services.”

Bob Marshall

Bob Marshall, General Mgr. of PSREC

In the small claims court case brought by Mr. Hart in March, Judge Hilde found that PSREC and its General Manager Bob Marshall violated state discrimination law.  The fees: $141 to start and $15/ month to use an analog meter, were found to be illegal under CA law as the utility levied a fee for what they knew was a simple accommodation of a physician-confirmed functional impairment, or disability — the removal of RF emitting equipment from the premises.

Judge Hilde’s decision states:

“Plaintiff presented the court with a letter from his physician, stating that he has a condition, Electromagnetic Field Hypersensitivity, which causes him to suffer from headaches and other medical symptoms when exposed to radio frequency from smart meters. Plaintiff also provided the court with copy of the California Public Utility Code section 453(b) which provides in part: ‘No public utility shall prejudice, disadvantage, or require different rates or deposit amounts from a person because of ancestry, medical condition, marital status, or change in marital status, occupation, or any characteristic listed or defined in section 11135 of the Government Code’”

Though Judge Hilde has now ruled that the fees are illegal, and ordered PSREC to offer a self-read based electric service, General Manager Bob Marshall refuses to comply with the judge’s order, and is refusing to restore electricity to the home.  Marshall and the PSREC Board of Directors say they plan to appeal the case. Hart asks, “Is it really in the public interest to spend ratepayer money on expensive attorneys to continue to refuse paying customers, unreasonably deny service, and defend illegal and discriminatory behavior?”  

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Josh Hart demonstrates outside PSREC HQ in September after he was barred entry from the annual member meeting

When Mr. Hart attempted to attend the annual meeting of the cooperative and vote in the election for directors in September, PSREC officials threatened him with arrest for “trespassing,” even though Mr. Hart was at the time a member and received an invitation to the event. “PSREC is retaliating against us for speaking the truth about their hazardous metering systems.  Their continued refusal to reconnect our home, even in the face of community pressure and a judge’s order is petty and vindictive, and is only driving more attention to an issue they’d probably prefer to sweep under the rug.”

This is not the first time that local courts have sided with smart meter radiation poisoning victims.  In 2012, a small claims judge in Santa Ana ruled that So Cal Edison replace an analog meter on the home of a woman who was made sick by the new wireless “smart” meter (see download below).  A woman in Santa Cruz County settled out of court with PG&E after she brought a small claims case for reimbursement for thousands of dollars spent to shield her apartment against radiation that was causing tinnitus and other health problems.

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Smart meters in Stockton, CA blew apart after a surge hit the city. No analogs were reported to have behaved similarly

This legal victory for the Harts and the broader Stop Smart Meters! movement contributes to the ongoing erosion of the legitimacy of smart meter “opt out fees” nationally. Earlier this week, the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to suspend such fees statewide, while legislation in the state of Vermont already prohibits such fees.  “The fires, the health problems, and the recent simultaneous explosion of hundreds of smart meters in Stockton point to the fact that we should be abandoning the entire ill-conceived system — not just be dropping the fees. Charging for the use of safe and secure analog meters, and disconnecting paying customers is a violation of the law and community moral standards,” stated Hart.

PSREC has until May 7th to file an appeal.

We are seeking to raise $10,000 through crowdfunding to hire an attorney and compel the utility industry to comply with the law.  Contributions to the legal effort (as well as solar panels and other off-grid equipment) are being gratefully accepted at StopSmartMeters.org/donate

More information about filing your own small claims case- NOLO Guide

KQNY Interview with Josh Hart Oct. 14th, 2014  (Aired but only posted online today):

Links to a timeline and full SSM! coverage of PSREC’s violations

Download Text of Judge’s Decision:

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HartDecision2

HartDecision3

Download Hart’s pre-trial Demand Letter to PSREC:

PSREC DEMAND LETTER

Download 2012 Kyle- SCE Case:

Santa Ana SCE Judgment

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Posted in California, Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, Electro-Hyper-Sensitivity, Fundraising, health effects, legal issues, Physicians, Plumas County, Police, PSREC, radio-frequency radiation, Smart Grid | 4 Comments

San Antonio, TX Takes to the Streets to Stop Smart Meters!

On Saturday, March 28th, residents of San Antonio, Texas took to the streets to demand an end to smart meters, and to urge support of two bills currently in the Texas legislature that would force utility companies to offer a no cost analog opt out option for the entire state.  Several organizations have coalesced in recent months, particularly in San Antonio, where CPS Energy- a municipal utility- has been forcing smart meters.

For more information about the Texas Stop Smart Meters! campaign, the current legislation, and if you are a Texan, how to take action to urge your representatives to support HB 3421 and SB 1044, see the Coalition for Safe Meters or Stop Smart Meters San Antonio sites.

To find out what is happening locally in your area, and hook in with our growing network, check out our Find a Local Group Page.

For more background on the Texas campaign against smart meters:

Texans Against Smart Meters

Residents Lock Up Analogs in San Antonio

SSM! Message to San Antonio City Council: Be a Wise City!

Alamo Heights City Council Demands Halt to “Smart Meters”

Posted in Cancer, Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, health effects, neighborhood organizing, radio-frequency radiation, Safety, Smart Grid, Texas, Time of Use Pricing | 3 Comments

UK Business Institute: Smart Meters “An Unjustified, Over-Engineered, & Expensive Mistake”

-3From the IOD Press Release:

An influential British business group- the Institute of Directors (IoD)- has called the British Smart Meter scheme an ‘unjustified, over-engineered and expensive mistake.’

The (UK) Government’s roll-out of Smart Meters, digital energy meters designed to provide real-time usage statistics, should be “halted, altered or scrapped” to avoid a potentially catastrophic government IT disaster, the Institute of Directors warns today.

In a major new report entitled “Not too clever: will Smart Meters be the next Government IT disaster?” the IoD brands the £11bn scheme, the largest government IT project in history, “unwanted by consumers, devoid of credibility and mind-blowingly expensive”. The business group calls on an incoming government to review the project and “consider a fresh start”.

The Smart Meter program, which has the hugely ambitious target of installing 100 million new pieces of kit in homes and business by 2020, was initiated by Ed Miliband as energy secretary in 2008, following an EU Directive, and confirmed by the Coalition Agreement in 2010.  The report’s author, Dan Lewis, Senior Infrastructure Advisor at the IoD, calls the political consensus “a conspiracy of silence among politicians in thrall to big ideas and even bigger budgets”.

Lewis continues:

“The professed aims of the Smart Meter program are laudable, and we all recognize the benefits of reducing consumption and increasing energy awareness. But there is little credible evidence to suggest that a scheme of this size and complexity will achieve those goals.”

The IoD report highlights a number of key concerns:

  • Despite the EU Directive, 11 nations have ruled out electricity smart meters and only 5 are pushing ahead with the 2020 target for gas meters. In contrast, as is so often is the case, the UK has gold-plated the Directive.
  • The government refuses to publish any of the reports on the program by the Major Projects Authority.
  • The cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Department for Energy and Climate Change is so heavily redacted as to be almost unreadable.
  • The Smart Meter network would be vulnerable to cyber-attack and disruption.
  • Introducing time-of-day pricing to shift consumer demand will only work with price increases that are not politically realistic. Retail consumers really can’t change their energy consumption that much.

The report places the rollout of Smart Meters within the context of previous large-scale IT fiascos, including the infamous NHS National Programme for IT, the eBorders Programme and the BBC’s disastrous Digital Media Initiative.  Furthermore, a recent survey shows that 80 per cent of IoD members rate the ability of government to manage large IT projects as “poor or very poor”.

Dan Lewis adds:

“This scheme is far from smart. The dishonourable roll call of government IT projects that have hemorrhaged vast amounts of taxpayers’ money to no discernible effect needs no further additions. Consumers will not forgive the already unpopular energy companies for a costly program which fails to deliver and ends up making them poorer. Without a change of direction, whoever wins the general election is at risk of overseeing a spectacular failure in the next parliament. They would be well-advised to consider a fresh start.

Consumers do not want the meters, they have proved a costly mistake in countries where they have been rolled out, and the Government is withholding key details about their costs and benefits. This makes for a program which is devoid of credibility, over-engineered and mind-blowingly expensive. Perhaps the only reason why the cost and ambition of this project has not become a national scandal already is because of a conspiracy of silence among politicians in thrall to big ideas and even bigger budgets.”

A key area of concern outlined in the report is that the technology behind the scheme is untested and some parts will likely be obsolete by the scheduled switch-on date of 2020.

Lewis added:

“We know that an incoming government will be under intense financial pressure, having to find further cuts to public spending. This does not fit well with increasing energy bills for a project that has such unrealistic targets, such large costs and such uncertain benefits.”

Read the full report here.

Read the Full Press Release Here

Check out our Sister Organization: Stop Smart Meters! UK

More coverage of the UK’s smart meter mess here

Posted in Britain, Citizen rebellion, Democracy, Smart Grid | 4 Comments

Wheels Coming Off Smart Grid as PG&E Smart Meters Explode/ Burn/ Smoulder in Stockton, CA After Crash Causes Surge

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Not a video

STOCKTON, CA — Numerous media outlets are reporting that an inebriated driver in Stockton hit a pole yesterday, causing a powerful electrical surge that led dozens of “smart meters” to explode or catch fire.

Excerpt from the Stockton Record on the exploding smart meters:

“Stockton fire Capt. Bryan Carr with Engine 6, one of several fire crews dispatched Monday morning as dozens of electric customers began reporting explosions, smoke or the smell of burning wires, described the scene as “unreal” when his engine pulled onto Fairbury Lane, a residential street in southeast Stockton. Expecting to pull up to a specific address, Carr’s crew was greeted by a number of residents out on the street wondering why his engine wasn’t stopping at their house.
In some cases, meters were literally blown off the panels. People described it as hearing a whirring sound like the meter was speeding up, then like an explosion. Some of the meters weren’t blown off, but they were fried and the glass was gone,” Carr said.”

stockton smeter 12 cbsThis is not the first time that smart meters have shown their vulnerability to electrical surges.  In September 2011, a surge in East Palo Alto, California caused dozens of smart meters to fail. Despite this and hundreds of other incidents involving fire including where people have died, the California Public Utilities Commission has not even officially looked into the matter much less taken action to protect public safety.  Utilities around the world continue to deny any problem exists and have been seizing meters involved in fires before fire investigators have a chance to do their work, drawing public protests from Quebec’s firefighters.

A smart meter face is left dangling in Stockton after numerous meters explode or catch of fire after a surge.It has been widely recognized that smart meters – with their plastic housing and complex circuitry- are more vulnerable to fire and heat than traditional electromechanical analog meters, built solidly of glass and metal. Many utility industry observers have said they could not recollect past surges damaging analog meters the way that smart meter have been affected.

Utilities are seeking to collect money for the “privilege” of using an analog meter- or even worse- in some areas- attempt to forbid their use entirely.  Will ratepayers foot the bill to replace these $500+ smart meters every time there are surges in the network and they start popping like corn again?

stockton smeter 02 kcraThe condition of analog meters in Stockton is not known.  If you are in the area and have reports, please comment below.

More coverage:       News 10        KCRA

Posted in California, Fires, PG&E, Smart Grid | 4 Comments

“Tell her to not manipulate her age and fragility to get her way”

Marzia Zafar, CPUC's Head of Policy and Planning

Marzia Zafar, CPUC’s Director of Policy and Planning: the Grand High Grinch.

While reading through backchannel e-mails, it seems that again and again there is one particular individual at the CPUC who pushes the utilities to be even more mean, hard, and cruel than they already are. (and that is a feat indeed!)

That person is Marzia Zafar, current Director of the Policy and Planning Division at the CPUC- a veteran of the utility industry and of the revolving door system of corruption at state and federal agencies, now in a position of power to make people’s lives hell.  And she has apparently not wasted one opportunity.

The CPUC claims that it “serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates.  Yet internal e-mails show betrayal of the public interest, and state-sponsored tolerance, even sponsorship, of elder abuse .

Exhibit 1: this little jewel we just unearthed from the bowels of the CPUC’s internal e-mail database. After PG&E disconnected a 75 year old woman and others in Santa Cruz County, CA at Christmas time in 2011 for removing the smart meters that were making them sick, Zafar suggests that the woman is “manipulating her age and fragility to get her way” after she requests her power is restored as she has paid her full usage.

What an astoundingly callous, twisted, and backward worldview. 

The abuser blaming the victim.

After a huge public backlash, this senior living alone and others who had removed their smart meters had their power reconnected, but not after serious inconvenience, as well as the physical and emotional toll of having their food go bad at Christmastime not to mention the utility forcing an unwanted microwave meter on their home that made them sick.   And PG&E is still threatening elderly people with disconnect, as of last week.

Sidney Dietz of PG&E to Zafar:

“Sorry to bug you on vacation, but I need your advice.

Did you hear about this one? She’s one of the ones we cut off for changing her meter, and she refuses to go for the digital non-communicating meter. She’s 75 years old. We are getting pressure from politicians on this. One of our (customer service representatives) told her we’d put in an analog (!!!). Anyway, should we hold the line and leave her cut off or what? Are you getting pressure on this? I am afraid that if you (tell) us to give her an analog, there will be more of these. On the other hand, if we are sure that the final solution is analog, we may as well start giving them out in these cases. Any guidance would be appreciated.

This case, as you know, sux rox.”

Source document

Marzia Zafar, who is relaxing on the beach on the taxpayer dime as 75 year old seniors are struggling to heat and light their homes, responds by smartphone:

“Hi, No worries at all. I am not doing anything, just laying on the beach and reading about the mighty Clippers.

Hey – if it were up to me I would say tell her to not manipulate her age and fragility to get her way, but this is PG&E’s decision. You guys can’t eliminate risk by getting us involved all the time, sorry ;-)  “

Source document

grinch-by-web-mitdotedu1This person- Marzia Zafar- is still being paid by our tax dollars to work against us.

Shame on the CPUC.  Shame on Governor Brown.  It’s time to clean house, and Brown can start with this mean old Grinch who works against the public interest.

Demand Marzia Zafar’s Termination NOW

And yes Sidney, your company’s treatment of senior citizens sux rox!

If you’d like to share your thoughts or concerns with Ms. Zafar , you can reach her at her publicly funded e-mail account at the CPUC:  zaf@cpuc.ca.gov  or perhaps you would prefer to telephone her at her publicly funded, publicly available phone:

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Posted in California, Changing a Meter, Citizen rebellion, CPUC, Democracy, PG&E, Santa Cruz County, Smart Grid | 4 Comments