CPUC APPROVES OPT-OUT OPTION FOR PG&E SMART METER OWNERS--FOR A FEE; WILL RULE NEXT ON SDG&E
A local elected official says SDG&E installations of smart meters are occurring at homes on opt-out list
By Miriam Raftery
February 7, 2012 (San Diego)—The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) this week voted to allow Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) customers to have smart meters replaced with older analog meters, for a $75 installation fee plus a monthly fee of $5 to $10, depending on income. Ratepayers must inform PG&E by May 1 if they wish to opt-out.
Commissioners have not yet ruled on whether to allow San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) or other utilities’ customers to opt out, but are expected to make a similar ruling later this month. SDG&E has proposed even higher opt-out fees of including an initial $175-$200, an exit fee of $50 and a monthly fee of $15 to cover meter readings, the North County Times reports.
Susan Brinchman of La Mesa, who has been a leading voice statewide seeking to eliminate smart meters due to health concerns, said the ruling doesn’t go far enough to protect public health. “We may get analogs only if we can afford them, but total relief is not on the horizon, particularly for those with co-located or other meters close to their homes or apartments,” she said. “Pulsed radiation still will fill our neighborhoods, homes and workplaces. This is totally wrong.” –Susan Brinchman, Director and Founder, Center for Electrosmog Prevention, La Mesa
Brinchman added, “Pulsed radiation still will fill our neighborhoods, homes and workplaces. This is totally wrong.” She encourages readers to visit these sites for more information: www.electrosmogprevention.org and http://stopsmartmeters.org.
Concerns over smart meters is growing in California, where 49 municipalities including ten counties have taken strong positions against smart meters—with some outlawing them entirely. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has called for a moratorium on smart meters, which produce pulsed microwave rf radiation, identified by the World Health Organization has a potential carcinogen.
Brinchman expressed gratitude to more than 60 people who testified to CPUC commissioners on health impacts that they believe are caused by smart meters. “Most described horrific health problems that have developed since the smart meters were installed, including heart problems, cancers, severe dizziness, severe weakness, inability to sleep and so on. They insisted that neighbors’ meters bothered them too and that opting out, even if it could be afforded, would not allow them relief.”
Health problems aren’t the only concerns associated with smart meters.
“Smart meter installation disrupted one local’s Verizon hot spot wireless Internet service,” Boulevard Planning Group Chair Donna Tisdale told ECM. “The homeowner figured it out—even the Verizon tech did not trace the disruption to the smart meter.”
SDG&E is under orders from the CPUC to allow ratepayers to temporarily refuse installation of smart meters, but not to replace ones already installed. But Tisdale says the utility is not informing customers of the deferral option—and further, that SDG&E is defying the CPUC order and forcing installation on some customers who have made clear they don’t want smart meters.
“We had a confirmed opt out deferral but they showed up to swap our meter anyway,” Tisdale said. “Luckily we were home and sent the installers away. My neighbor had a confirmed deferral—and SDG&E swapped her meter while she was at work. She successfully fought it and they installed a new not-so-smart [analog] meter.”
Erin Coller, communications manager at San Diego Gas & Electric Company, said that the smart meter rollout is “almost 100 percent” complete in San Diego County and that those on an opt-out list account for 0.05% of customers.
Responding to an email describing Tisdale's complaint of an unauthorized installation attempt at her home and her allegation of an actual installation at her neighbor on the opt-out list, Coller said she was unaware of people having meters installed who were on an op-out list.
But she added, “We are taking steps to make sure that we are looking at that list and following it.” She emphasized that the utility will not be removing smart meters until the CPUC issues its ruling on opt-outs. A preliminary ruling is expected in February with a final decision in March, Coller said. She insisted that the smart meters pose no health risks. She added that the company had “proactively done outreach before installation started” including holding focus group and “learned things to improve our customer service.”
The public can provide comments and complaints on the opt-out decision and fees to the CPUC Consumer Affairs Branch at https://ia.cpuc.ca.gov/cimsapp/?key+39949189.
Angela Flynn, a resident in Redwood City who has been battling smart meters, concluded, “We won’t quit until the entire wireless mess grid is taken down and replaced with fiber optics.”