PSREC Confused About The Law (Again)

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SSM! Founder Josh Hart went to the local rural electric “cooperative” to speak to other members about how PSREC has singled his family out for disconnection and retribution.

While Reno, NV Fire Chief Tom Garrison was holding a press conference on Saturday about the series of fires likely caused by “smart” meters that have led to at least one death, an hour’s drive to the northwest, Plumas Sierra Rural Electric “Co-op(ted)” (PSREC) were desperately attempting to quash any discussion of the safety problems with their own smart meters.

PSREC cut off our electricity on Feb. 19th for refusing to pay  smart meter “opt out fees.”  We thought that was rather rude.  And we didn’t think much of the intimidation tactics, coercion, yelling or lying that followed it.  But sadly it is what we have come to expect from the electric utility industry in 2014.  On Saturday, rather than ensuring the safety of their grid, it seemed that PSREC’s staff were far busier monitoring and attempting to suppress our demonstration, filming us and walkie-talkie-ing with each other.

Though PSREC is still sending us monthly member bills for “opt out” charges we never agreed to, and which other members with analogs are not being billed for, they refused entry to their annual member meeting, stripping me of membership and the right to vote in the board election without explanation.  They told me if I attempted to attend the meeting, I would be arrested for trespassing on their property.

Not in the mood for a visit to the County jail, I went back to the public highway and held a sign and spoke to passersby in front of their HQ.   But that wasn’t good enough for PSREC.  They had already ‘dismembered‘ me- now they wanted me gone.

While they summoned every law enforcement resource within a hundred square miles, I peacefully demonstrated and distributed our brochures to members attending the Annual Meeting and Luncheon.  Most people were supportive and had heard about our mistreatment by the utility.

I asked the PSREC employees “guarding” me whether they were requiring an extra fee to use the disabled parking in front of their offices: “That’s your thing, right?  Charging more to people with medical conditions?”  I advised them if they wanted to suppress freedom of speech more effectively that they might “want to buy up the whole county” because that type of thing generally isn’t allowed on public property.

PSREC tried to get us removed from the highway in front of their HQ by calling the CHP.

PSREC tried (in vain) to get us removed from the highway in front of their HQ by calling the CHP and Sheriff’s Dept.

A California Highway Patrol Officer showed up and suggested that I should “move down the highway a little” to get out of the way.  Finally common sense and the law prevailed, and a female officer from the Plumas County Sheriff’s Dept. showed up and confirmed I had every right to be there and to express my point of view, and PSREC could do nothing about it.   We chatted for several minutes about the hazards of smart meters, and how PSREC had mistreated our family, while the utility’s staff glared.

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PSREC Staff (in blue) chat with a CHP officer they had summoned to deal with the “emergency” of being confronted by their own negligence

In spite of PSREC’s best efforts to undermine freedom of speech and suppress the truth about their unlawful abuse of customers and their hazardous smart meters, the First Amendment remains the law of the land.

Though a local newspaper reporter interviewed me and took my photo, not a word was mentioned in the paper this week.  Smoky the Bear’s appearance at the meeting was apparently more worthy of space in the local rag than people being killed  by smart meter fires in Reno, or locals who refuse to pay to avoid the deadly meters getting their power cut off and harassed with threats of arrest.

Fred Nelson, one of the PSREC board members walked by on the way to the meeting and I told him we would like our electricity turned back on before winter.  He glanced back with a smirk, and said, “you know the deal.”

We do know the deal, Fred- and the deal is rotten.

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While Reno’s paper focused on the hazards to life and property posed by smart meters…..

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….50 miles away, the local Portola Reporter was more interested in what people were eating, as well as a man dressed in a Smoky the Bear suit.

 

 

Posted in California, Citizen rebellion, Democracy, legal issues, neighborhood organizing, Nevada, Plumas County, Police, PSREC, Safety, Smart Grid | 1 Comment

Nevada Fire Marshal Calls for Smart Meter Investigation After Fire Death in Reno

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One of several smart meter fires in Reno NV and one of hundreds if not thousands across the US and around the world

Update 9/16/14: Nevada State Fire Marshal Calls for Statewide Investigation Into Smart Meter Fire Hazards (Reno Gazette-Journal)

KTVN Reno Local TV Coverage

It was reported by the Reno Gazette over the weekend that a 61 year old Reno woman and her two animals died from a fire apparently caused by a Nevada Energy smart meter on her home in late July. Our deepest condolences to her family and her friends and neighbors, and we declare our mutual outrage that this issue has been ‘left to smoulder’ for years by corrupt state and federal officials, even as people lose their lives.

According to Reno Fire Chief Tom Garrison, there have been more than dozen incidents in the Reno/ Sparks area including one that burned a man’s face.

The fires in Reno started in Sensus meters, the brand that has been subject to safety recalls in Saskatchewan, Oregon, and Florida.  It’s also the company who fired whistleblower Don Baker, a former employee who tried to bring this hazard to their attention).  But it’s not just Sensus meters.  Since the beginning, there have been problems including fires and explosions with GE, Landis & Gyr, Itron, and others.

Apparently, having untrained workers install non-UL approved, flammable plastic meters stuffed with untested transmitters and electronics in them, carrying the full electrical load of a building, and left out in the elements may not have been such a great idea.  Who knew?  What we do know is that Larry Nikkel and Michelle Sherman (and how many others?) would be alive today if regulators had done their job and utilities obeyed the law.

A smart meter fire can be particularly dangerous according to Reno Fire Chief Garrison, because:

“they start on the outside of the house, won’t be picked up by indoor smoke detectors and can escape immediate notice.

‘It can burn a long time and enter the attic or the walls,”‘Garrison said. ‘The occupants inside may not even be aware the house is on fire. This is very alarming to me.’

NV Energy is the same company who came to a woman’s house with armed men and disconnected her electricity for choosing a safe analog meter.   StopSmartMeters.Org has also been the target of utility abuse.  Here we are in one of the worst droughts in the West’s history, living in a dry forest, having been cut off by PSREC the local electric company because we refused to pay a fee for a safe, non-combusting analog meter.

Something ain’t right here folks.

In other tragic and preventable news, our colleagues over at Stop Smart Meters! Massachusetts have issued the below press release, renewing their calls for a full investigation into the costly, ineffective, and hazardous smart meter program in that state after last month’s death of a 6 year old girl in New York state from Carbon Monoxide poisoning after National Grid cut the family’s electricity off.

The home where a six year old girl died following a utility disconnection

The home where a six year old girl died following a utility disconnection

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Stop Smart Meters Massachusetts
Contact: Patricia Burke patricia999burke[at]gmail[dot]com

The death of a 6 year-old girl in a NY home where National Grid cut off electricity for non-payment has amplified human rights and environmental activist group Stop Smart Meters Massachusetts’ request for an investigation into the expense to ratepayers of the Department of Public Utilities smart meter mandate. The group has also called for an audit of the controversial $48M, 15,000 meter Worcester pilot program, which is 5 times larger and far more expensive than the Green Communities Act mandate.

Carbon monoxide poisoning is suspected in the NY death due to the use of an indoor propane heater. The Chicago area Advanced Metering Infrastructure Health Impact Assessment, conducted in partnership between the National Center for Medical Legal Partnership at Boston Medical Center, and Citizens Utility Board noted that customers deprived of electricity often turn to unsafe alternatives, endangering health and safety.

Wireless smart meters enable two-way communication between the utility and the home. 111 municipalities in Quebec have called for a moratorium and/or free opt out. Germany has rejected smart meter deployment. In the UK, the Committee of Public Accounts issued a report Sept. 9 casting doubt over the validity of the smart meter rollout, raising concerns over the cost-benefit to consumers and the ability of the energy market to keep costs down.  Nations including Italy, the site of the Vatican leukemia lawsuit, opted for safer, faster; more secure hard-wired technology. Italy is not collecting private usage data from customers. Lakeland, Florida; Saskatchewan, Canada; Pennsylvania, and Oregon have removed thousands of smart meters due to fire hazards.

The Worcester pilot program, which included 242 microwave antennas, has been delayed due to contentious zoning battles regarding placement of
towers in residential neighborhoods. Despite the fact that the pilot program has not proven smart meter effectiveness, the DPU has already mandated the technology for MA investor-owned utilities, estimated at a cost of over $7B to ratepayers.

Tim Knauss of Syracuse.com reported that in NY, “For the past decade, in good times and bad, National Grid has reported more than 200,000 customers a month – roughly one in seven – who are at least two months behind on their bills. Each year since 2006, National Grid has terminated between 49,000 and 61,000 residential accounts for nonpayment in its Upstate territory, which extends from Albany to Buffalo. For some customers, there is “a permanent level of unaffordability built into the rates,” said William Yates, a senior financial analyst at Public Utility Law Project.

Informed activists caution that the costly technology is untested, has not been monitored for environmental and health impacts, and relies on FCC guidelines that have not been reviewed since 1996. Concerns are mounting that consumers will be forced to pay for the technology twice, once for the initial installation, and then for the replacement cost once the shortcomings of the system are readily apparent.

The Department of Public Utilities relied on the testimony of tobacco scientist Peter Valberg from the product defense firm Gradient, while reports such as the Seletun Scientific Statement recognize biological harm occurring at radio frequency exposure levels far below US exposure guidelines, which have never been tested for children, pregnant women, the infirm, medically vulnerable, or elderly.

The Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council, which provided testimony in opposition to smart meters for MA DPU docket 12-76 stated, “The smart grid
is increasingly understood as an over engineered, ill-advised, financial
boondoggle at taxpayer expense, capable of endangering the security of the
entire national grid, violating constitutional privacy protections and
endangering public health. In addition, the smart grid/metering has not been found to save energy when all the new variables in the system are factored in. Plus, time-of-use pricing is largely punitive to those who can least afford it. Time-of-use pricing is fundamentally a Wall Street model designed to maintain shareholder profits as we transition to more energy efficient models that will reduce demand.”

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Posted in Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, Democracy, Environmental Concerns, FCC, Federal Government, Fires, Installer Threats and Assaults, Massachusetts, Nevada, Plumas County, PSREC, Safety, Smart Grid, Time of Use Pricing, U.K. | 1 Comment

111 Quebec Municipalities Call for Moratorium, Free Choice; Thousands of Smart Meters Recalled in Arizona and Florida

MeltFrom TakeBackYourPower.net:

Quebec activist Jean Hudon brings us news that 111 municipalities in Quebec have now called for a moratorium and or free opt-out of “smart” meters:

This news comes amidst Quebec’s emerging overbilling scandal and fire-related recalls throughout North America –

• An anonymous APS whistleblower in Arizona leaked that 50 to 60 thousand faulty “smart” meters are being replaced

Lakeland, Florida recalls more than 10,000 meters because of fire risk

Those who continue to attempting to deploy unproven, harmful technology while withholding critical facts must be held to account.

* * *

Check out the following upcoming screenings of the smart meter documentary Take Back Your Power.  If you don’t see your local town listed, why not buy the DVD or host a screening?

5 Sept – Tustin, CA
6 Sept – Seattle, WA (w/ Josh del Sol)
7 Sept – Seattle, WA – info
10 Sept – Medina, WA
13 Sept [Television] – CTP12, Denver, CO – info
13 Sept – Rangitikei, New Zealand
14 Sept – Vero Beach, FL
16 Sept – Madison, WI – flyer
18 Sept – Rye, NY
7 Nov – Grass Valley, CA (w/ Josh Hart and Eric Windheim)

* * *

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

Knowing is not enough; we must apply.
Willing is not enough; we must do.
~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

* * *

Posted in Arizona, Citizen rebellion, Fires, Florida, Quebec, Smart Grid | 1 Comment

Method # 786: How to Get the Word Out and Bypass the Mainstream Media Blackout About Wireless Health Risks

0825141421“K” from LA writes:

“Check out my new license plate!

You all should get something similar..

They rejected it at first but I appealed and sent in a letter with like 20 studies.  I had a long good conversation with the woman in appeals so it should be easier for you all.

Ideas for other license plates like CELS KIL or WIFI KLS or RFR KILS or ATT KILS or WIFI SIC etc…”

Hey Californians, What about PGE KILS?

Posted in California, Los Angeles, neighborhood organizing, PG&E, radio-frequency radiation | 4 Comments

Some PG&E Customers Getting Fees Reversed as CPUC Endlessly Delays Smart Meter “Opt Out” Decision

CPUCSAN FRANCISCO- Some utility customers in California are getting utility smart meter “opt out” fees reversed in hearings at the California Public Utilities Commission, even as the Commission itself drags out a decision about the legality of such fees, having postponed making a decision on the matter five times now- more than nine months beyond their statutory decision deadline.

Victory for California Public

Last Friday August 8th, CPUC Administrative Law Judge W. Anthony Colbert ordered Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to immediately remove opt out fees from the bill of a customer who has retained his analog meter.

The complainant in this case- Thomas Rainey, a resident of Livermore, CA and a PG&E customer- challenged PG&E directly based on its tariff, claiming successfully that the opt out fees did not apply.  Mr. Rainey did not indicate whether or not he wanted a smart meter, or whether he wanted to join the ‘opt out’ program.

A Concerned Observer at the hearing provided this report:

A decision was rendered at the end of the Evidentiary Hearing by the
ALJ Anthony Colbert, in Mr. Rainey’s favor.

It was so ordered that PGE is to immediately remove (AND CREDIT) and
cease from charging the $75 surcharge AND each monthly $10 fee for
meter reading.  PG&E reluctantly had no other option but to agree to
this.  

The PG&E Representative was sadly ill prepared, which the ALJ actually
pointed out to him, twice.”

PG&E’s tariff (which apparently their Representative could stand to read) says:

“a customer must affirmatively elect to opt-out of the SmartMeterTM Program, and shall default to SmartMeterTM-based utility service absent such an election. If PG&E makes a field visit to a customer’s residence for purposes of installing a SmartMeterTM and the customer does not provide reasonable access to PG&E to install a SmartMeterTM after being provided notice of eligibility for service under this Opt-Out Program and not electing to opt-out, the customer shall be deemed to have elected service under this Opt-Out Program.”

-Advice Letter 3278-G/4006-E filed by PG$E on 16 February 2012

An astute observer at the hearing mused that:

“So the burden of proof is on PG&E to show EITHER:

(1) That you “affirmatively elect to opt-out of the SmartMeterTM Program”;

or

(2) that all of the following factual “elements” are true:

(a) PG&E makes a field visit to a customer’s residence (note that a visit
by Wellington- the contractor may not qualify);

(b) the visit was “for purposes of installing a SmartMeterTM “

(c) access was not provided;

(d) the non-provision of access was by the customer (how PG&E would prove this in the case of e.g. physical barriers if you aren’t home is unclear);

(e) the non-provision of access was not “reasonable” (this makes any
evidence as to the reasonableness of denying access relevant and
admissible at the CPUC hearing).

PG&E has to ‘prove’ they tried a number of resolution avenues (site
visit, site visit homeowner refusal, certified and snail  mail, AVR
calls) to get the homeowner to allow access expressly for the purpose
of installing SmartMeters.

*If* PG&E makes a visit for the purpose of installing a SmartMeter, one may consider presenting them with a form to sign, as a precondition of access for that purpose, accepting liability for any RF interference or other damage caused by the SmartMeter.

Presumably, they would decline to sign. Then if it gets to the CPUC you
could argue that this was a reasonable condition of access, just as it would be reasonable to require that they warrant that they aren’t carrying any weapons or contraband, agree to be subject to search while on your premises, agree to allow filming and recording, etc.”

In other words, use your power as a party within a contractual relationship to demand that the utility meet your requirements if they wish to access your property.  Put the ball in their court and begin dictating to them on what terms you will accept service.  Absent any consent from you, you still have an agreement with your utility to provide service through an analog meter.  No matter what they say or how they try to spin it, if you have never given your consent to accept smart meters or pay fees to avoid them- there is no new agreement.   No contract.

Rainey’s victory is a black eye to PG&E who were unprepared for the hearing, and who are defending a program that clearly violates state utility code, charging more to accommodate people’s medical conditions and to protect their safety.  Every melted plastic meter and displaced family (or worse) makes it that much more difficult for the CPUC to argue with a straight face that the utilities “opt out” fees are not- in reality- a safety charge- and thus illegal under state law.

Step Down

Step Down

Instead of making a decision to uphold their “opt out” fees in a form that could be challenged in court, the Commission led by Michael Peevey is deferring and deferring and deferring, allowing the status quo of utility intimidation and extortion collection to continue throughout the state.  Even though California’s interim “opt out” policy does not even have final approval, it is still being cited and replicated all around the US by industry, many times with higher fees and non-analog, electronic meters.

This is not acceptable.

CPUC: Piss or Get Off the Pot

Californians have been murmuring about the indefinitely continuing postponement of the PUC decision and new questions about the legitimacy of “opt-out” fees are being raised.   Those on the inside say the “opt out” fee program is simply not on sound legal footing, vulnerable to challenge under the state utility code section 453(b) prohibiting disabled discrimination, as well as other statutes.

Speculation in the comment section at the EMF Safety Network site is that:

“the CPUC’s legal team simply can’t come up with any bona fide legal authority to charge the fees.  The extension statements read: ‘The issues in this proceeding are complex . . .’  Perhaps they should read, ‘insurmountable.’”

Jacqueline Greig and her daughter

Jacqueline Greig and her daughter

In addition to all this, the CPUC’s credibility has been severely undermined in recent days by revelations about intimate collusion between PG&E and CPUC President Michael Peevey’s staff who helped the utility avoid a safety-related inquiry into the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion case.  Critics (such as ourselves) say this “twisted love-in” is resulting in deaths and serious injuries and it’s time for Michael Peevey to step down.

Ms. Greig and her daughter paid the ultimate price for PG&E's criminal negligence

Ms. Greig and her daughter, and the rest of the City of San Bruno, paid the ultimate price for PG&E’s criminal negligence.

The corporate culture that led to the San Bruno explosion, that killed eight people including one of the state’s leading gas pipeline regulators, Jacqueline Greig is the same culture that led to the rapid deployment of untested smart meters and subsequent destruction and death they have caused.  The “opt out” fees are part and parcel of this system, intended to prop up a failing smart grid at public expense while suppressing demand for safer, more accurate and private analog alternatives.

Give me your money or I might burn your house down

Give me your money or I might burn your house down

Thus, like a middle school dropout who hasn’t done his homework, scamming the other kids of their lunch money, utilities are trying to extort the fees the same way they tried to force the meters- through intimidation, bullying and coercion.

CPUC President Michael Peevey is like the principal looking the other way, getting kickbacks for his silence while snickering at the bullying of the other children, telling parents to “shut up” when they complain about the abuse their children are suffering.

Essentially by approving extension after extension, the PUC is refusing to “piss or get off the pot” preferring the status quo where the utilities exploit a new source of revenue from illegal “opt out” fees, intimidating people into paying without any solid legal backing.

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A damaged basement door where utility workers in BC “actually kicked the door in” Courtesy: Take Back Your Power

The Smart Grid: Unable to Complete?

Those who have sole control over access to their meters are in a much stronger position, clearly.  The question of what happens with such residents is not an insignificant one, as this article from Baltimore points out, 350,000 residents-  more than 25% of BGE’s customers- have not responded to utility installation efforts (we don’t blame them).   Other households in places like San Francisco where electric meters are typically located inside the home- have also refused access and still retain their analog meters- without being billed for- or paying fees in many instances.

What are the utilities going to do with millions of “Unable-to-Completes?”  Start breaking down (front) doors? Disconnecting people’s electricity even though they have paid their bill (sounds familiar). Gradually upping the “opt out” fees during a time of economic hardship until families cry uncle, forcing a possible carcinogen and fire risk into the home?  How much is too much to require people to pay when some can’t even pay their utility bills currently?

Who do these people think they are, anyway?

The Judge’s decision raises a number of legal and ethical questions:

  • What if a person decides they don’t want to decide, seeing as here’s a person who declined to decide, and doesn’t have to pay?
  • Why should a person who just happens to have an inaccessible meter get the privilege of not being forced to pay?
  • 105,000 "smart" meters have been recalled in Saskatchewan

    105,000 “smart” meters have been recalled in Saskatchewan

    Is it “reasonable” to install a device onto people’s homes which has shown itself to be hazardous, shorting and arcing out and burning, subject to fire hazard recalls in Pennsylvania, Oregon, and now Saskatchewan?

  • In light of these documented safety problems with so-called “smart” meters, is it “reasonable” for a homeowner to consider sticking with the analog meter for the time being?
  • Is it “unreasonable” for utility corporations to put a price tag on safety and health, so only some people can afford these “premium” services?

Mr. Rainey’s victory against PG&E has helped answer some questions but raised many more.  Critics of the relevance of this verdict might claim that Mr. Rainey’s victory was based on a mere technicality.  To us, what this verdict brings to light is that under existing law and under the existing tariff structure, individuals are getting these ridiculous fees overturned and retaining their analogs.  We’ll be following Mr. Rainey’s case, as well as others who push their individual cases at the CPUC.  Let’s flood the courtrooms and bring down this dangerous beast of a smart grid with a thousand tiny cuts.

Those wanting to challenge the illegal fees and take their case to the CPUC can begin here.  Let us know how it goes.

Case reference:

8/8/14 11:00 a.m. ALJ Colbert ECP – C.14-04-002 (EH) – Thomas Rainey, Complainant, vs. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, (U39E), Defendant, California Public Utilities Commission Courtroom, San Francisco

Note that no formal written decision was issued in this case.  The ALJ agreed to dismiss the complaint against PG&E and PG&E agreed to drop the fees.

Here is another case where PG&E was forced to reverse “smart” meter opt out charges:  http://hasbrouck.org/blog/archives/002101.html

Posted in California, Citizen rebellion, CPUC, Democracy, Fires, legal issues, neighborhood organizing, PG&E, San Francisco, Smart Grid | 6 Comments