In January, EMF Safety Network filed an Opening Brief and a Reply Brief in the CPUC Smart Meter opt-out proceeding. The opening brief provides a good summary of the issues from the customer’s perspective. We recommend the CPUC:
- 1) Allow residential and commercial customers for any reason to retain or restore analog meters at no cost;
- 2) Require utility company shareholders to bear financial responsibility for Smart Meter opt-out costs;
- 3) Order the utilities to refund opt-out fees already paid by individuals;
- 4) Open a CPUC proceeding, allow testimony, and hold evidentiary hearings to investigate Smart Meter health and fire safety complaints.
Here are a few key highlights:
- Over 200 utility customers spoke to Administrative Law Judge Amy Yip-Kikugawa in five California cities. Twenty speakers refer to the opt-out fees as “extortion”. Other descriptions include: “a theft”, “a scam”, “un-American”, “criminal”, “tyranny”, “pay not to be harmed”, “abuse of power”, “a penalty”, “coercive”, “highway robbery”, and “an assault”. Mr. Holz who spoke in Santa Barbara stated, “in self defense I would smash every single f***ing one of them.” These strong words aptly illustrate the outrage many customers are feeling.
- Mr. Patrick Wrigley stated he was a former PG&E meter reader for nine and a half years in the Marin office when he was fired because he was not wiling to be quiet about the Smart Meter problems he saw. Mr. Wrigley said, “The fact that PG&E knows that they do catch on fire when they are remotely turned back on when a customer who is delinquent in their bill finally pays their bill. These meters catch fire. They know it, and they are covering it up.”
- Dozens of speakers told heartbreaking accounts of health problems since Smart Meter installation: headaches, tinnitus, sleep problems, heart problems, anxiety, nausea, and more. Some stated they had been forced to move to avoid neighbors Smart Meters and banks of Smart Meters. For example, Ms. Toril Jelter stated she is a board certified pediatrician and general practitioner with over thirty years experience. She said, “when my neighbors got smart meters I developed severe tinnitus, fatigue, and neuropathy at home and at work.” She stated she had to move her home to a low RF area, and close her practice.
- In 2009 PG&E began receiving many complaints about Smart Meters. In January of 2010 PG&E hired a public relations firm, Edelman, to try to improve the Smart Meter image online and in print media. PG&E spent millions of dollars for marketing Smart Meter programs, but refused to remove Smart Meters for customers with health complaints. The money PG&E spent on advertising and snooping on activists could have been used to cover the costs to restore analog meters.
- PG&E was provided $128.8 million in risk based allowance, included in the original Smart Meter program. DRA witness Lee-Whei Tan said, “The AMI [Smart Meter] program built in a lot of contingencies. It has almost $200 million contingency plus another $100 million dollars that PG&E can avoid reasonableness review.”
- If the Commission is using the “cost causation” principle for determining allocation, they should apply utility company neglect as the cause of the problem, not the individual customer. The utility company shareholders should pay for opt-out costs in order to ensure more accountability in the future.”