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 nowmore 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

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”;


(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.

Screen Shot 2014-08-12 at 4.22.54 PM

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:

This entry was posted in California, Citizen rebellion, CPUC, Democracy, Fires, legal issues, neighborhood organizing, PG&E, San Francisco, Smart Grid. Bookmark the permalink.

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

  1. Ron says:

    “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.”

    If this was indeed a public hearing, why is there no public record of the decision? The fact that no formal written decision was issued effectively reduces all these reports to hearsay. Of what value will the case reference be if there is no decision indicated? Thus the “victory” becomes a secret. Was it actually the ALJ or the complainant Thomas Rainey who agreed to dismiss the complaint if PG$E dropped the fees?

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

    Here’s how it went, from first hand experience. On October 29, 2012, I filled out and submitted the online complaint form at this same link. One of the questions to answer on the form was what did the utility have to say after I first complained to them? PG$E merely passed the buck to the CPUC, deferring response to legal issues such as the following:
    In explicit, unambiguous language, CPUC Code Section 745 (d) (1) states:
    “Residential customers have the option to not receive service pursuant to time variant pricing and incur no additional charges as a result of the exercise of that
    option. Prohibited charges include, but are not limited to, administrative fees for
    switching away from time-variant pricing, . . .”
    When CPUC Staff Counsel Fred Harris was asked how CPUC’s approval of optout
    fees avoids violation of Section 745 (d) (1), he answered:
    “I have not located a Commission decision that specifically
    references California Public Utilities Code Section 745(d)(1) in the
    context of a Smart Meter decision. I assume that one or more of the
    parties in the proceeding . . .may raise California Public Utilities Code Section
    745(d)(1) as one legal argument against a separate opt-out fee.”
    As a formal complainant, I hereby raise CPUC Code Section 745 (d) (1) as a
    specific legal argument against a separate opt-out fee, and request a formal
    decision pertaining to this citation.

    That was part of the text of my complaint. Now I’m wondering if Harris couldn’t locate any Commission decisions referencing 745 d1, perhaps because any favorable decisions would remain secret?

    The only written response to my complaint was a form letter that arrrived snailmail 2 weeks later, with a “file number” ascribed. The very first sentence morphed my complaint into “comments and concerns.”–no mention of complaint. The letter essentially ignored the substance of my complaints, instead outlined the unsolicited implementation of their smeter “program” and the extortion of their opt-out “program”. I did get one other response within 2 days, however. It was a telephone message from Marianne Camacho of the CPUC who was notoriously misinformed of my complaint and ended with the threat of disconnection. That was nearly 2 years ago, and it still hasn’t happened, despite ongoing monthly repetitions of the same threat from PG$E, both telephoned and mailed.
    So I am really curious how Thomas Rainey was able to make it past square one in CPUC’s process?

    Mention of Jacqueline Grieg deserves fleshing out a little. In the words of one reporter, “What are the odds that Jacqueline Grieg, a whistle blower advocating for customers of PG&E, was at home in San Bruno at the epicenter of the explosion and died that day, along with her 13 year old daughter. She had previously exposed PG&E for proposing a cost for pipeline upgrades at a rate increase of $4.2 billion, which her research revealed was exaggerated by $3.2 billion. What are the odds of her house being ‘ground zero’ for that blast?”
    She was a ” . . .17 year veteran with the Public Utilities Commission and specifically the lead of the natural gas section of analysts who devoted their careers to the statutory mission of the DRA (Division of Ratepayer Advocates) of minimizing costs to ratepayers consistent with good safety and consumer protection. Greig spent the summer analyzing the PG&E’s request for a $4.2 billion rate increase.”
    “. . .the DRA (especially Greig, as lead) pointed to so many unsubstantiated cost allegations, including inexplicable doubling of estimates after previously adjusting for wage inflation, that the DRA countered with a $1 billion over three years counter-proposal. That’s a difference of $3.2 billion — and gives PG&E approximately 3.2 billion reasons not to like Jacqueline Greig.”

    Most perturbing were comments from man-on-the-spot Peevey himself about the “irony” of circumstances. The following statements were quotations that appeared in an LA Times article:
    “She lived right at the spot where it blew,” commission President Michael Peevey told the Los Angeles Times. “She and a younger daughter were in the house. Her husband and the older daughter were at the daughter’s school.”
    “The irony is that she worked in the gas section” of a division of the commission, Peevey said.

    • Sonia Nordenson says:

      Ron, thank you for giving us further detail on the very sad and (I now understand) sinister death of Jacqueline Grieg and her daughter.

      One day soon, may we all get past square one in this confrontation with malevolence!

  2. Terri says:

    This is a MONUMENTAL step in the right direction. I will be spending the afternoon sharing this decision with the world, because I know it will give hope and courage to all those who are valiantly fighting this good fight, to save their families from the ravages of “Spy and Fry” meters. Thanks SO much, Josh & Company, and thanks also to all those around the world who have brought us to this great point. And remember: We WILL win – we outnumber them by the BILLIONS!

    Terri Keller
    Stop Smart Meters Georgia Facebook (you are cordially invited to visit/join!

  3. It appears that Peevey is now guilty of covering up murder. Not only must he be removed from the Commission, he also must be indicted for his many crimes. Most importantly, his replacement should not be another corporate shill, rather should be an activist from the anti-wireless community. Flood Jerry Brown with letters, phone calls and emails, until Peevey is in prison where he belongs.

  4. Snowy says:


    Recently there has been yet another spate of fires, this time in the province of Saskatchewan, in Canada, where 105,000 smart meters are now being removed.
    Are they discontinuing the smart meter program? NO.
    They are playing the deflection game, “look over there”, as well as “bait-and-switch” brands as a non solution to the real problem – arson.

    In Portland. Oregon it is 70,000+ meters being yanked. In Lakeland, Florida it is 10,000+. In Ontario and Quebec they are hedging and trying to circumvent the growing liability. It won;t work, We re not backing down.

    In response to this serious increase in fires, most Provinces are doing “damage control” but not doing anything realistic to address the systemic issue of how smart meters cause fires, period.

    When did the utility and/or government’s fire prevention priority go missing?

    If it ain’t broke why did they “fix” it. Simple, Greed. Follow the money.

    Why has a safe, tried and true method now been replaced by a dangerous method inextricably linked to reckless endangerment in violation of multiple codes and laws?

    Isn’t this done solely so that the private property owner’s home wiring is usurped to operate the smart grid at his/hers own private expense while he/she is forced to shoulder the full liability and then pays the ultimate price when the grid fries h/her brain, hi/her home and his/her family?

    Looking good politically by revisiting the fire issue is not the same thing as addressing the smart grid Enron look alike multi billion dollar boondoggle, involving total violation of building and electrical codes posed by criminally negligent use of these devices.

    In BC no phone lineman can work anywhere near a smart grid collector hub unless it is first shut off.
    Yet such hubs are often located on poles right near private second story bedroom windows – 24/7.
    Do they care about private hazards? Apparently not.

    This is nothing short of the officious abuse of a power grab to use energy for the pathological imposition of lethal harm using weaponized frequencies and prior knowledge of arson potential to bend and then break all laws, even to locate sparky meters near gas sources, a la San Bruno.

    The Canadian province of Saskatchewan has been”discovering” well known problems such as hot socket, unsupervised electrically illiterate installers, microwave over voltages from transmission lines (also able to be induced wirelessly by smart grid nodes).
    Nothing new there.
    That particular government is to date getting the media and the public to remain focused on the pretext of supposed flawed brands or types of smart meters – versus the REAL ISSUE which is the flawed concept of ANY smart meter as an uninsurable, incompatible, sparking, arcing device).

    Every home has a heavy duty master switch at the service panel or circuit box. It is designed to safely, thoroughly and completely shut off the power for the entire electrical system of the home. It is not easy to shut off or turn on for a good reason.
    Now imagine a computer chip on a circuit board designed to do the same thing remotely, from, say the Hong Kong based head office for your utility.
    Insurable? Probably not.
    Reckless endangerment? Yes.

    Utilities and governments everywhere are using what is known as SOFT LAW instead of RULE OF LAW, in order to apply coercion and to achieve consensus and compliance from the uninformed public. All stick, no carrot, they don’t care. It is pure Delphi Technique to achieve the appearance of consensus from those who are electrically and electromagnetically illiterate and who are therefore, by definition, unable to grant informed consent even if they WANT to.
    Is the deployment of the smart grid outside the rule of law as we know it?

    At what stage do enough people reach the point of no return on being put in mortal danger by criminals and elected idiots?

    Despite bald faced assertions to the contrary, the latest cover up confabulations have been issued in press releases by the latest “Energy Minister” for BC, who recently, since the latest round of smart meter fires, has gonet on record and asserted that BC Hydro’s Itron smart meters have been “proven safe”, which is a total lie.

    Even the archaic and misleadingly junk science of the SAR standard uses a plastic dummy head with a hollow head filled with salt water and with no biological properties to prove absolutely nothing.

    BC Hydro’s Itron meters have a REMOTE DISCONNECT (& RECONNECT) SWITCH. Everywhere else, not just in BC or in other provinces, this switch is now one fire hazard feature of many implicated in smart meter precipitated fires. The aluminium neutral appears to also play a role.
    Then throw into the mix a hot swap by an unlicensed installer to whom liability has supposedly been farmed out.
    Then add smart grid induced inescapable surges from over voltages from the energy distribution system and from the smart grid wireless grid separate system put in place for metadata extraction.
    Now ask yourself how your conventional analogue meter socket could still be fine after it has a smart meter jammed on to it. Ever.
    Then understand that any ongoing arcing and sparking behind the smart meter is now hidden by the smart meter. Delayed fire potential has just been greatly increased, depending on when the next power surge occurs and how corroded the base wiring is by that point.
    How convenient. If it is delayed then is wasn’t related to the imposition of the smart meter? Wrong.

    It is not the brand name of the smart meter that matters. Electrical incompatibility of the smart meter with the meter socket and home wiring in and beyond the service panel is a systemic problem across the board created by the installation of all smart meters that cannot be separated from the issue of inrush currents, surges, spikes.
    Add to this that almost all these sparky meters are bonus incentivized to be rush installed by unlicensed installers under hot load.
    Now understand that even if a meter here or there was not installed under hot load, (a rare event), as soon as the power is restored there is a power surge fully able to trigger a fire.
    The smart meter itself causes the compromise to theUL safety rating for the meter socket and home wiring.
    Then realize that the same spikes and pulses conditions which create a new fire hazard once you have a smart meter also “enhance” billable “usage”.

    In BC they even use the same book keepers used for Enron, that old and long respected and now infamous defunct accounting firm Arthur Anderson, renamed “Accenture” after it was found to be at the centre of the Enron debacle.

    What is it going to take? Many already lost their pensions to the first round of this scam. Persistence wins the day, Demand removal of arson meters.
    Are utilities arsonhoes?
    If they used a flamethrower on your wiring, would you refuse? Well they as good as did so. Did you or will you refuse?


    The purpose of the remote disconnect switch is solely control and utility $aving$/profits.
    The utilities are the same as banks, looking to be BAILED OUT.
    You still have any assets? savings? They are after them.

    The RD switch in a smart meter is designed in so that the utility can save approximately $47 dollars per remote reconnect if they have shut off service to any account they deem to be delinquent Refusal to pay opt out fees or (in BCF) “legacy” fees, is deemed delinquent, Disconnection notices have been sent out randomly to some of the countless hold outs who still have safe meters and refuse to pay to not burn in their beds.

    If the utility remotely disconnects service for any reason they dream up, they charge the customer hundreds of dollars -($355 and rising in BC) for remote reconnection plus a hefty security deposit, plus all owed fees plus a smart meter to get energy back.


    Oregon: Portland General Electric replaces 70,000 Smart Meters, says remote disconnect switch is a fire risk | Smart Meter Harm

    Smart Meter remote connect/disconnect switch — a possible fire hazard | Smart Meter Harm

    Cindy Sage — Fire Potential July 2010

    Fire Danger: Unknown-Safety of SmartMeters’ New Disconnect Switch | HOPE: News and Community

    Check out CPUC PPH Santa Rosa Transcript on Scribd:

    This contains knowledge that the remote disconnects switch, when utilized to re-energize an account, caused smart meters to catch fire.

    View the 2013 Barrie Trower WiFi Report,
    Wi GenotoxiFi Our School

  6. Emma says:

    Interesting and timely read as I’m in Livermore also, and got a voicemail at 5pm today stating that Wellington tried to install a gas smartmeter and couldn’t access the meter, so I’m getting charged unless I get them on my property asap. No appt was set by PGE or Wellington, no one called/knocked on the door, left a doortag, etc. I guess I’m lucky today I happened to have the dogs in the back yard, so I guess when the guy tried to jump the fence the dogs scared him away. However, that also means if my dogs bit him, being in California means I’d probably end up in court on that 🙂

    Wellington jumped the fence a year ago to install the electric meter without my permission, causing me to move into another bedroom (meter is on external wall of master bedroom). PGE confirmed that for 10+ years my address is listed as unaccessible, and that Wellington should have access to the same info as they see for my address. So it makes no sense that they continue to ignore normal business procedures such as appts, accessibility notes, etc. PGE also agreed that Wellington would never be sent back but that a real PGE employee would come (only after a bonafide appt was scheduled, confirmed by phone, etc.)

    After reading this article, I’m not going to agree to any installs with PGE/Wellington and take my chances. I’m wondering how I can keep them from jumping the fence, and also if there is any way to get the electric smartmeter removed since I never agreed to its installation.

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