Wireless Meter Ban Renewed in Marin

Marin County California Board of Supervisors Photo: EON

Marin Stands Firm on Moratorium
San Rafael, CA. 1-29-2013 – To cheers from local residents, Marin County’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously today to renew its moratorium on wireless, so-called ‘smart’ meters, first approved January 4, 2011. It applies to all the unincorporated areas of the county.

[ Scroll down for 12-minute video report. ]

Since the ban’s first passage, 57 cities and counties in Ca have followed
Santa Cruz and Marin Co’s lead. At first PG&E refused to honor such bans, but
then offered an opt out that’s now going through the CPUC process to define details.
Marin Co. Sheriff Doyle also refused to enforce it at first in the unincorporated areas.
The city of Fairfax instructed its police to enforce the ban, however.

Potentially significant for other campaigns of popular resistance to forced wireless meter installation around the country and the world, the CPUC has responded to mounting public and official pressure by setting a policy allowing individual opt-out in California, and is in the process of developing a policy on community-wide opt-outs. EON is participating as an intervenor in this process. (See our latest brief below)

In his pre-vote statement Supervisor Steve Kinsey called it, “a straight forward procedure…intended to demonstrate the Board’s ongoing commitment to the community members who have concerns about smart meters. It’s our way of prodding the CPUC to finish the unfinished business – to come up with fair rates for opting out, to resolve once and for all whether or not there is an opportunity for community-wide opt-out, and to respect that individuals should be able to control their destinies in their own homes,” he said.

In his briefing letter on the ban’s extension, David L. Zaltsman, Deputy County Counsel, reminded the Board that, “…In July and October of 2010 your Board directed the President to send letters on your behalf to the President of the California Public Utilities Commission requesting that they immediately suspend deployment of so- called Smartmeters by PG&E in Marin County until certain conditions regarding their safety and accuracy had been confirmed. There was no response. However, several other cities, towns and at least one other County decided to address this lack of action by the CPUC by adopting urgency ordinances imposing moratoriums on the further installation of Smartmeters until these issues have been adequately addressed.”

Mr. Zaltsman further pointed out that, “…CPUC has been working on options for allowing various opt-outs from Smartmeter installation and related fees. However, that process is still ongoing such that the CPUC has not yet formally approved any opt-out provisions or fees.”

In the public comment period before the vote, several Marin County citizens gave cogent analyses of the multifaceted issue. Here’s our exclusive 12-minute video report of what they had to say.

[ Quite a contrast with Naperville events: Electro-Magnetic Facism Shows It’s Face]

Evidence Supports Decision for Ban
In her letter to the Board in support of renewing the moratorium, EON Co-Director wrote in part:

More and more evidence has emerged that reaffirmed the
reasons we residents struggled so hard to prevent the forced installation. Some of the evidence:

1) The World Health Organization’s IARC committee designated microwave signals in the same frequencies as used by the ‘smart’ meters as a class 2B carcinogen, in the same category as lead and asbestos.

2) An internationally recognized expert in the development of technologies such as the RFID chip who served on boards devising standards for automatic metering, smart grid technology expert Timothy Schoechle, PhD., has issued a white paper decrying the failed ‘smart’ meters. “Getting Smarter About the ‘Smart Grid.”

Schoechle highlights widespread misunderstandings about the alleged technological benefits of the meters and says that the funding on them was misspent on obsolete technologies.

3) A new report by the BioInitiative Working Group 2012 says that evidence for risks to health has substantially increased since 2007 from electromagnetic fields and wireless technologies (radiofrequency radiation). The Report reviews over 1800 new scientific studies.

Cell phone users, parents-to-be, young children and pregnant women are at particular risk. ‘Millions of mesh-networked ‘smart’ meters are exponentially adding to the risk.

The CPUC is in the midst of a proceeding that is looking at fees for opting out of the ‘smart’ meter as well as whether they will cooperate with a community wide opt out. It is imperative that Marin County, who is being represented in the proceeding by attorney Jim Tobin, continues to uphold our right to choose.

The Case for Community-Wide Opt-Out
EON is an official intervenor in the CPUC’s on-going proceeding on opt-out policy setting. In EON’s recent brief submitted to the CPUC we argued in part:

“1. ‘Smart meter’ Deployment is Imprudent as to Usefulness and Use
As EON has argued before:
The utilities conducted an ill-considered mass rollout of untested wireless meters, and imposed them on customers without their informed consent. This constituted grave errors on the part of utility management, and therefore the costs of opt-outs – both individual and community-wide – must be borne by the stockholders of the mismanaged utilities and not the customers.

A recent white paper by Timothy Schoechle, Ph.D., published by National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy amply substantiates this assertion. [ GETTING SMARTER ABOUT THE SMART GRID – An energy and electricity policy white paper ] We respectfully recommend that all participants in this Proceeding consider the information presented in Dr. Schoechle’s paper. An international consultant in computer and communications engineering and technical standards development, who has played a role in the development of standards for home networks and for advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), Dr. Schoechle shows that not only is the granularity of information on individual households purportedly provided by wireless meters unnecessary to a truly ‘smart’ grid -and are neither used or useful – but the deployment of wireless meters actually prevents fulfilling the stated goals of the ‘smart grid’ plan. Not only has the heavy-handed approach to deployment generated growing public opposition across the U.S. in at least 18 states, such as CA, VT, AZ, TX, FL, PA, ME, IL, OR and the District of Columbia, which is spreading internationally, but it has soured the public perception of the ‘smart grid’ concept generally, despite the validity of some of its objectives.

Schoechle writes,

‘Much early rhetoric about the smart grid and its potential was visionary and grandiose, but what has been delivered has been less impressive, offering little or no public benefit but much public expense (Fehrenbacher, 2010). The meter has come to symbolize a “bait-and-switch” situation, mainly to the benefit the utility industry and its vendors as well as to politicians and bureaucrats. In their present form, smart meters offer few or no benefits to consumers, but pose significant risks and costs to them and to society.… ‘

He goes on,

‘The smart grid may yet be an important key to a new energy economy, but the current smart meter approach is irresponsible—financially, politically, and technologically. [emphasis added] This is because the smart meter emphasis does not contribute to the balancing of supply and demand or to the integration of renewable sources, while sapping the resources needed for true progress and squandering public support. Over the last year, utilities around the country have installed an estimated two million smart meters. These were included as part of $3.4 billion in federal stimulus funding to “modernize” the nation’s power grid. The Edison Institute (IEE) estimates that 65 million smart meters will be deployed by 2015, representing 54% of U.S. households, and that as of September 2011, 27 million smart meters had been installed…. The presumed contribution of these meters to the goals of the smart grid deserves close examination.’

Schoechle concludes,

‘However, the unfortunate reality is that very little progress has been made toward moving the grid toward distributed renewable energy or enabling the other goals proclaimed…. Disproportionate benefit from the funding has accrued to utilities and meter and metering network manufacturers (e.g., Elster, GE, Itron, Landis+Gyr, Oncor, Sensus, Silver Spring Networks, etc.) rather than to consumers.…

“Following the initial hype about smart grid and all of the benefits it could bring, the smart meter rapidly became “low hanging fruit” that would provide “two-way communication” to the end user that could deliver all the wonderful benefits of the smart grid. So the narrative went. But this starry-eyed account turned out to be wrong. In reality, the smart meter delivered unemployed meter readers and a deluge of meter data that utilities had no idea what to do with.

“Deployment of wireless meters is increasingly revealed to be an imprudent and irresponsible policy-making, regulatory, and management mistake of huge and mounting proportions. No costs associated with deployment or opting-out should be born by ratepayers or taxpayers, but should be seen as totally the liability of utilities and their stockholders.’

2. Individual Opt-Out is Insufficient Due to Mesh Network Impacts

As documented in previous EON filings in this proceeding,
‘smart meters’ propagate both RF and Electro-magnetic frequencies (EMF): (1) through the air from their built-in wireless antenna, and (2) through connected wiring systems from the switching mode power supply (SMPS) contained in each meter which generates high frequency transient ‘spikes,’ or ‘dirty electricity’ throughout interacting circuits.

Individual customer opt-outs in areas where ‘mesh networks’ are established between neighboring wireless meters and area data collection points still leave the opt-out customer exposed to both sources of pollution.

There are inherent problems caused by microwaves pulsing at 9 billion times per second, each electric meter radiating these pulsing signals omni-directionally in concentric spheres, capable of traveling up to one mile in PG&E territory. Multiple banks of meters multiply and exponentially increase these effects for apartment dwellers and anyone nearby.

Additionally, an individual household opting out in a neighborhood where a mesh network is in place will still be exposed to both the wireless RF pollution and the dirty electricity pollution generated by the constant ‘chirping,’ or cross-transmissions emanating from the surrounding households’ wireless meters and the nearby data collection points. Many cases of people having to abandon their homes and workplaces in such circumstances have been reported.

Here is one example from a recent CPUC Public Meeting in Santa Rosa, California, ALJ Yip-Kikugawa, presiding:

STATEMENT OF MS. HAHN

‘Hello, your Honor. Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is KH. I’m a private citizen from San Raphael. My life changed completely on September 9th, 2010. Within 24 hours of the installation of a gas and an electric smart meter on my home my physical health began a rapid downward descent. Within days I was unable to sleep, to concentrate, or to eat. Within weeks I had developed a sensitivity to all things wireless. I could not tolerate proximity to cell phones, computer routers, cordless phones, digital TV or DVD players.
I was not able to stay in my home when the electricity was on nor walk through the streets of my town. A private tutor for the previous 15 years, I now could no longer visit my clients in their own homes or work with them in the libraries. My ability to earn a reasonable income became severely jeopardized.

‘In the early months since I began to lose town after town, I remained convinced that there were places where I could go to clear my body of radiation. My partner Bob and I drove to more sparsely populated 
locales hoping to find sanctuary. Smartmeters had not been deployed so much in Sonoma and Mendocino Counties, but that ended as PG&E overtook those places. It soon became apparent that there was indeed no place to run to nor to hide from the devastation of smart meters. So we hired a number of electrical professionals to help up us determine to what extent our problem is responsible for my illness and whether we could remedy the problems and stay in our home. We even had lots of help from PG&E, who removed the smart meters, replaced our transformer and rebundled our cables to lessen the EMFs running on our lines.

‘All six professionals detected a transient running on our house wires, and all six of them were certain that it was not being generated inside my house. In short, the problem was equally present with the electricity disconnected from the power lines as it was when it was connected. The smart meters were sending pulses that travel through the air and catch a ride on whatever conducts frequency, be it cables, power lines, internal house wiring, water, sewers, or gas pipes or houses themselves that act like antennas…. The mesh network has a life of its own.
Who is accountable for the medical and property costs and living expenses in such tragic cases? Why should they not be factored into the total cost accounting?’

Furthermore, PG&E employee, Brian Rich, testified that due to individuals opting out, PG&E had to install 33 additional data collection nodes. This adds to the microwave pollution in the areas where this is done, eliminating some of the slight benefit to the individual opting out of a single meter.

3. Only Community-Wide Opt-Out Even Begins to Address Multiple “Smart Meter” Problems

It is clear from the foregoing considerations that individual opt-outs in otherwise mesh-networked neighborhoods not only does not address the issues of wireless meter emissions, but can be argued to constitute a violation of citizens’ rights to safety under the California constitution.

To date, over 55 cities and counties have voted against deployment of ‘smart meters’ in their jurisdictions. The full costs of a comprehensive opt-out program cannot be calculated until the concept of ‘community’ is defined and a community-wide opt-out option is in place.

4. No-Cost Opt-Out is the Only Justifiable Policy
It is understandable that at first the utilities were ignorant of the adverse effects from wireless mesh networks. However, many thousands of complaints from sickened customers over the past three years should have adequately alerted them to the multiple problems. Obviously, the validity of thousands of customers’ experience should be respected, not ignored or denied.
Cost causation is logically, from the point of view of the customer, borne by the utility who installed the wireless mesh networked ‘smart’ meters, not the customer wishing to avoid harm.
It is outrageous to claim, as Ray Blatter, of PG&E claimed, that the benefit of not having the adverse problems of the meters should be paid for by the customer.

Conclusion and Recommendations
EON respectfully recommends that all utilities offer an analog meter at no cost to any customer wishing one. There should be no time limit involved. Small businesses should be included.

The costs of a mis-conceived and mis-managed program should be born by its perpetrators, not its victims. For all the above reasons, no costs of either individual or community-wide opt-out programs should be passed on to ratepayers, but born by IOUs and their investors, or the contingency allotment already provided by the commission for the AMI rollout should be used for any expenses incurred.

Since no legitimate, comprehensive or responsible opt-out policy can be arrived at without consideration of the key reasons for public opposition to ‘smart meter’ deployment: safety, privacy, health effects and cyber-security. CPUC should hold public evidentiary hearings on these topics as part of its decision-making and policy-setting process.”

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