Fatuous in Fairfax – PG&E Blows it…Again: EON EMF Commentary

Fatuous in Fairfax – PG&E Blows it…Again
By Mary Beth Brangan and James Heddle

What Part of the Word ‘NO’ Don’t They Understand?
Last night Fairfax held another special Town meeting, allowing PG&E to formally respond to half the questions posed to PG&E by residents two weeks ago. PG&E thought that if they communicated properly to Fairfaxians, the town would drop their ordinance against smart meters. It was great theater, as PG&E once more demonstrated its abysmal ineptitude at responding to substantive public concerns, and its profound disrespect for public intelligence.

And, as Ellie Marks and Lloyd Morgan found when they presented at the Brisbane Town meeting about the new cell phone legislation passed by San Francisco recently, industry sent some of their biggest guns to quell the people’s rebellion. They know – all industry eyes are on ‘thought leader’ California as the growing wireless/electro-smog/cellphone/smart meter push-back gains momentum.

The gauntlet is thrown; the gloves are off; the chips are down; the truth is out; the handwriting is on the wall; and the multiple cats of privacy, property rights, hackability, public health, biological and environmental risks, economics and democratic choice are out of the bag. The corporate wireless build-out wet-dream is in danger of drying up from a terminal case of truthiness.

So, the Big Gun Gambit didn’t work in Fairfax.

Its not the ‘SmartGrid,’ it’s the wireless, stupid!
People shouted down Bill Devereaux (left, above), PG&E head of the Smart Grid/Smart Meter project after he gave a lengthy greenwash presentation on why PG&E claims wireless smart meters are so necessary to save the planet from climate change and make possible a plug-in electric car in front of every home. “We’ve heard all this before. Answer our questions!” demanded voices from the audience.

PG&E also flew in retired FCC staffer, now industry consultant, Robert Cleveland (center, above), who said he helped establish the FCC RF standards. He tried to convince people that smart meters were compliant with their regulations and that their regulations were adequate to prevent harm. “The fact that the last update of the standards was in 1996 tells me everything I need to know to know they’re inadequate,” one woman stated firmly during testimony.

Leeka Kheifets (right, above), an epidemiologist, currently at UCLA, also tried to reassure residents about safety. Kheifets is notorious for her work with Michael Repacholi in making sure industry interests take precedence over public health concerns at national and international levels.

Leeka worked with Repacholi to set the W.H.O. EMF policies and RF policies. (see one article explaining this below). “Who paid you to be here?” demanded a person from the audience. “PG&E,” a startled Leeka responded. “And who paid for the studies you’re quoting?” demanded another. “Responsible industry should fund the studies,” she insisted. “Smart meters would only be as strong as someone making a cell phone call outside your home,” Leeka asserted. “I don’t want my children exposed to cell phone-like radiation 24/7!” shouted one mother. Leeka was also given the hook.

More Questions Raised Than Answers Given
The educated and informed Fairfax audience was, except for one speaker, totally unimpressed. People were incensed that they were given no real answers to their specific questions regarding what the smart meter duty cycles were, what the peak pulse strengths were, why there was no opt out for medical reasons, why fiber optics, or other shielded cable options weren’t used, etc.

The one speaker who said he probably would be going against the grain, quoted a WHO (World Health Organization) statement in his remarks. Mayor Lew Tremaine retorted, “The WHO. is about as concerned about public health and safety as the World Bank.” The audience cheered its agreement.

Marzia Zafar of the CPUC also was part of the panel vigorously defending the need for the smart grid/smart meters. (She was also at the Sebastopol meeting in the spring.) At the end of the evening, she asked the crowd if it would accept the opinion of the upcoming report requested by Assm. Jared Huffman by the California Council on Science and Technology. Huffman has asked CCST to evaluate whether current FCC standards are adequately protective of public health. The audience shouted “NO!” PG&E reps and CPUC’s Zafar looked exasperated. She clearly doesn’t understand that the reason the public distrusts ‘official’ studies, is the many examples of such studies turning out to be industry-friendly cover-ups of the actual facts. (see articles below) Zafar’s behavior deepened the public perception that CPUC is the regulatee not the regulator in relation to PG&E’s policies.

The meeting went on until well after 10 pm. We videotaped and will post it asap.

The PG&E Traveling Clown Show will have a return engagement in Fairfax on Thurs. Oct. 28th at 7 PM. Based on the company’s consistent record, Fairfaxians expect it to be heavy on bovine waste material, but light on real answers to their substantive questions of public health, privacy and property rights, security, safety and democratic choice.

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PS:

Here’s the link to a fabulous article by Louis Slesin of Microwave News from 2005, explaining Kheifets’ repeated references last night to studies on the relationship between childhood leukemia and EMFs. It also gives a good look at how science and standards have been manipulated by industry concerns.

And here’s a paste of a shorter article by Louis Slesin of Microwave News on Kheifets’ work with the WHO and Mike Repacholi.

WHO and Electric Utilities: A Partnership on EMFs

October 1, 2005… As members of the WHO Task Group make their way to Geneva for next week’s meeting to complete its Environmental Health Criteria (EHC) document on power-frequency EMFs, new information has emerged showing that the electric utility industry has played a major role at every stage of developing the review document.

Microwave News has learned that Mike Repacholi, the head of the WHO EMF project, recruited utility representatives to help write the original draft of the document and later asked them to review the completed draft. Then, as we reported last week, Repacholi invited eight utility representatives to attend next week’s task group meeting —the only observers who were invited (see September 22 entry). The task group and the industry observers will assemble at a WHO conference room in Geneva on Monday, October 3 to recommend exposure limits.

Documents show that Leeka Kheifets played a central role in drafting the EHC document. Kheifets has had a long relationship with EPRI, the research arm of the electric utility industry. She worked for EPRI before becoming Repacholi’s assistant in Geneva. Now, back in California, Kheifets recently disclosed to the British Medical Journal that she “works with the Electric Power Research Institute… and consults with utilities.” Among those who collaborated with Kheifets on the EHC document include: Gabor Mezei, also of EPRI, Jack Sahl of Southern California Edison, the U.S. utility and John Swanson of National Grid, the U.K. utility. 

Repacholi sent a draft of the EHC out for review in early July. Among those asked for comments were: 

• William Bailey, Exponent Inc., U.S.
• Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC) 
• Kent Jaffa, Pacificorp, U.S. 
• Michel Plante, Hydro-Quebec, Canada
• Utility Health Sciences Group (USHG), U.S. 

To be sure, a number of independent researchers were also participated, but it is highly unusual, if not unprecedented, for a WHO health document to be reviewed by so many with such strong ties to the affected industry. 

Not surprisingly, most of the industry comments seek to downplay potential health risks. 

Here for example is an excerpt from those filed by Plante on the epidemiology chapter:

“The whole section on cancer seems more like a desperate attempt to maintain some positive statistical association from epidemiological studies alive than a factual and honest presentation of arguments both, for and against, carcinogenicity.”

Plante, who will sit in on the weeklong deliberations at Repacholi’s invitation, has been assigned to the epidemiology working group, where he will no doubt continue to maintain that the link between EMFs and childhood leukemia is inconsequential.

Plante has played a villainous role in the EMF controversy. A decade ago, he was involved in stopping work on an epidemiological study on possible EMF cancer risks to electric utility workers. The Canadian-French study was the first —and the last— to investigate whether exposure to high-frequency transients could lead the cancer. The multi-million dollar study, published in the November 1, 1994 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology was considered, at the time, a landmark event. The research team led by Ben Armstrong and Gilles Thériault of McGill University found strong cancer risks as well as dose-response. Members of the EMF community were excited by the results and looked forward to follow-up efforts. But, Plante worked with others at Hydro-Quebec to shut down the McGill project by forcing Thériault to return the data he and the others had painstakingly collected (see MWN, N/D94). Thériault was never allowed near it again.

Jack Sahl, another invited observer who will also sit in on the epidemiological working group, was a leading member of the UHSG for much of the 1990s. The USHG was the brainchild of Tom Watson, now of Watson & Renner, a law firm based in Washington. In the 1990s, all the major electric utilities in the U.S. —by one count, 76 participated — were members of the USHG. Watson was originally invited to attend next week’s meeting, but his invitation was later withdrawn. Still obscure is why Repacholi changed his mind and disinvited Watson.

It is not known who wrote the comments submitted by the USHG, but it is possible that every electric utility that is a member of the USHG was given the chance to review the WHO document and funnel its comments back to the WHO.

What is clear is that the USHG attempted to weaken the EHC document. For instance, while the draft states that, “evidence is increasing that magnetic fields could interact with DNA-damaging agents, at least in some cellular models,” the USHG suggested that for the “sake of clarity and balance… it would be useful to include… ‘Any such effects on DNA cannot, however, be considered as established’.”

USHG also proposed the following change in the chapter on protective measures: “It should also be pointed out that ‘redirecting facilities or redesigning electrical systems may be so expensive as to be inconsistent with the low-cost and no-cost steps typically viewed as prudent avoidance’.”

Nor was the USHG bashful about promoting the utility position, arguing:

“It would be useful for the summary to include a clear statement that the scientific research does not establish ELF EMF as a cause or contributing factor in any disease or adverse health effect, including cancer.”

Very useful to industry, indeed.

Thanks to Repacholi, the electric utility industry has been and continues to be a full partner in the writing of the EMF document —a document which will be the WHO’s official position on EMFs for years to come. The most disconcerting part of all is that no one at the WHO thinks he is doing anything wrong.

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