In response to the City of Sebastopol’s recent ordinance (pdf) prohibiting “smart” meter installation, and the council’s willingness to use police powers to enforce that ordinance, Pacific Gas & Electric Company is now essentially threatening to disconnect the entire community of 7,000+ people.
The city council is reasonably insisting that the utility hold off on installation pending the outcome of the CPUC “opt-out” proceeding to decide how communities who refuse the meters will be treated (a decision by the Judge is expected in a matter of weeks but apparently PG&E can’t wait).
By refusing routine maintenance in the city, PG&E is using its power to provide (or take away) utility service, and its hefty legal war chest to intimidate and blackmail this small city in Sonoma County, who never asked for any trouble. They just don’t want “smart” Digital Utility Meters in town.
The dispute has gotten so bad that PG&E is now refusing even to carry out gas pipeline safety work in the city, according to Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin (unbelievable considering the deaths that took place in San Bruno):
Then earlier this week, McLaughlin said, PG&E said it was ceasing all operations in the city, including the marking of underground gas lines and work on the $23.5 million Barlow project, the city’s largest development project in years.
And Helen Burt, Chief Customer Officer of PG&E who admitted subscribing to activists private e-mail lists-
“said she told employees she met with on Wednesday to be ‘situationally-aware’ while they are working in the city.
“We may be calling law enforcement ourselves,” she said.
This is what utility service has come to in Northern California ladies and gentlemen. Threats, groundless suspicions, and intimidation. Not your friendly local utility any longer. Sorry June Cleaver.
Sandi Maurer, whose EMF Safety Network is based in Sebastopol, and has done widespread outreach in the community on the wireless health issue, had this to say about the situation, and specifically the wildly misleading op-ed columns coming out of mainstream news sources like the Press-Democrat.
“We don’t want to be at war with our communities,” Burt said.
Then don’t be, PG&E. You started this war with your customers, after all.
Stand strong Sebastopol. You are in good company. This is where the rubber hits the road. You have a right to keep Wellington Energy (PA-based smart meter installers) out of town- and keep the lights on. PG&E- and their enablers- should be ashamed of themselves for disrespecting local democracy and forcing an unwanted system.
Local governments like Sebastopol have the power to revoke franchise agreements with the utility, and develop their own renewable power resources. That means thousands fewer inflated electric and gas bills going into shareholder accounts.
They are our homes and our communities, not the utilities’. If the problems with smart meters aren’t resolved soon, then communities have the right to seek alternatives to utility service altogether. Let’s start an off-the-grid revolution, and take back our power! Then when the utility threatens to disconnect, we’ll say, “that’s cool, pull the plug– we’re ready.”
Then the headlines might start to look more like this…