Tuesday, December 18, 2012
ATTEMPT TO MUFFLE OUTCRY BACKFIRING AT STATE SMART METER HEARINGS
S. Barbara and LA Hearings Draw Heated Protest as OC and Santa Rosa Meetings Loom
SAN FRANCISCO- It appears that California’s Investor Owned Utilities (IOU’s) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) are seeking to suppress growing public rebellion against a bungled ‘smart’ meter program, by holding public hearings at inconvenient locations and in the midst of a hectic holiday season. The CPUC- widely criticized for failing to protect public safety when utility profits are at stake- is attempting to finalize an ‘opt out’ fee for those who retain their traditional electromechanical analog meters. At a standing room only public hearing in Santa Barbara on Friday, some utility customers even threatened to start smashing the hated devices if they continue to be forced on the public. The final two CPUC public hearings are scheduled as follows:
SAN CLEMENTE Tuesday Dec. 18, 2012 at 6pm San Clemente Community Center – Ole Hanson Fireside Room 100 N. Calle Seville
SANTA ROSA Thursday Dec 20, 2012 at 2:00 p.m. Steel Lane Community Center – Dohn Room 415 Steele Lane, Santa Rosa
At CPUC meetings over the past 3 years, hundreds of people have protested the numerous problems with utility ‘smart’ meters. Problems include horrendous health effects that many are experiencing following installation (forcing some to flee their homes and move into their cars), widely reported fires and explosions, overbilling, and privacy violations. California utilities were finally forced to provide an “opt out”–for a fee. Their decision followed numerous forms of direct action (e.g. physically blocking installation trucks), legal action, and votes by 57 California city and county governments opposing or banning this dangerous technology. Although the “opt out” procedure does not fundamentally address the problems identified, since just eliminating a single ‘smart’ meter at their living space doesn’t solve the problem of toxic EMFs saturating entire neighborhoods (especially problematic for those living in multi-unit apartment buildings), many considered it to be at least a partial victory. It resulted in some alleviation of symptoms for those who chose to opt out- albeit at a price ($195 for the first year) that many consider extortion.
Opponents of the fees are insisting that utility shareholders pay any costs resulting from customers who choose to retain their analog meters, since the decision to shift to ‘smart’ meter technology was made without consultation. PG&E admitted that more than nine million perfectly functional analog meters removed from homes and businesses were destroyed by the company. Now PG&E is purchasing new analogs because of its short-sighted decision, and they are insisting that opt out customers pay the costs. Anti-smart meter advocates claim the interim and proposed fees are unjust, arbitrary and unreasonable, and violate the State’s Public Utility Code:
Code 328.2(b) states: “No customer should have to pay separate fees for utilizing services that protect public or customer safety.”
Code 453(b) states that “No public utility shall prejudice, disadvantage, or require different rates or deposit amounts from a person because of … medical condition…”
The CPUC is now holding a series of statewide hearings on the opt out issue. Up for consideration is an INCREASE in opt-out fees (which would make it prohibitive for most) and in some geographic areas, the elimination of analog meters, which are considered by those affected to be the only relatively safe meters available. After a vocal public outcry, the state of Vermont’s legislature passed a bill requiring a zero-cost opt-out, and advocates in California and other states ask “why not here?” Of the five statewide hearings, only one is being held in Northern California, in Santa Rosa. It is scheduled at a time, right before Christmas that seems designed to ensure minimal public participation. The earlier hearings, scheduled for areas in mid and southern California, were held right in the middle of the Hanukah holiday. The Santa Rosa hearing time, at mid-afternoon, also precludes participation by people holding a daytime job.
Groups opposing ‘smart’ meters will be holding a press conference outside the building in Santa Rosa at 1:30pm. A charter bus will transport anti-smart meter advocates from Santa Cruz to Santa Rosa, with stops on the Peninsula, in San Francisco and Marin. For more info, go to www.stopsmartmeters.org
 The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has determined that it is unsafe for people with any one of a wide variety of medical conditions (such as cancer, coronary, musculoskeletal, oral, immunological, neurological), women who are pregnant or may have fetal abnormalities to have a smart meter on their homes. http://aaemonline.org
 Hundreds of fires, explosions, and electrical problems caused by ‘smart’ meter have been reported internationally. PECO Energy in Pennsylvania halted installation of ‘smart’ meters this summer after 26 fires were reported.