Briefs filed in CPUC Smart Meter opt-out proceeding

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.”


Chasing off Smart Meter installers in Sebastopol

Wellington, a company contracted by PG&E, is installing Smart Meters in Sebastopol despite the fact that Sebastopol has asked for a moratorium twice; that Sebastopol council supports a Smart Meter community wide opt out; and that the CPUC has a proceeding pending to investigate the possibility of community opt-out.

Senior community chases off Smart Meter installerThis morning residents at Burbank Heights and Orchards (senior housing community) and Sebastopol residents chased off an installer, who admitted he had only two weeks training and was not an electrical contractor, which is a requirement for FCC safety conditions. 83% of the residents there opposed the meters. As he was leaving he said  he was going to file a police report, and when I brought the camera out he got in his truck and left.

Two more Wellington trucks installing gas smart meters were on Murphy Street. When I approached the two men they did not respond or answer any of questions.  They eventually packed up their stuff and left, putting the analog gas meter back together.

Smart Meter installers drive small white Wellington Ford Ranger trucks.  They are installing throughout Sebastopol now.  There were at least three trucks in town today.  It appears the installers have been instructed to vacate a scene if they are approached. They also seem to leave town if followed, rather than going to the next house to install.

Wellington installs PG&E Smart Meters
Wellington installs PG&E Smart Meters

If you see an installer you can ask these questions:  Are you a licensed electrical contractor? Did you know Sebastopol asked for a moratorium on Smart Meters twice? Did you know there’s a CPUC proceeding that’s investigating a community opt- out program? Did you know that the Sebastopol council supports community opt out?

Tomorrow night Tuesday Feb 5 at 6 pm is a council meeting at the Sebastopol teen center.  We can bring this issue up at public comments and see if they can take some action to ban the meters after all.

PG&E doesn’t care, a kid’s perspective on Smart Meters

Anna Maurer is ten years old. She lives in Sebastopol California. The City of Sebastopol has asked PG&E for a moratorium on Smart Meters twice.  Recently PG&E began installing Smart Meters in Sebastopol near Anna’s neighborhood and school, despite the city’s request.

Smart Meters transmit radio waves, aka RF radiation, (thousands of pulses a day), which the IARC, an arm of the World Health Organization classifies as a 2b (possible) carcinogen, same as DDT and lead.

Anna and her mom have both suffered headaches when near Smart Meters.  Many people have reported health complaints since Smart Meters have been installed, on their homes or in the neighborhoods. Sleep problems, headaches, ringing in the ears, heart problems and more are reported.

Anna’s mom is Sandi Maurer (EMF Safety Network director) who has been working hard to stop Smart Meters. There is a pending proceeding at the CPUC that might allow communities like Sebastopol to be Smart Meter free, but PG&E doesn’t care. They continue to deploy these toxic meters, because they can.

Anna wrote this speech and made this video because she does not want to have to move.

 “I want to protect my town but PG&E doesn’t care.  They don’t care that people could get sick from what they are putting on our homes.”

Here’s her short speech:
“My name is Anna Maurer.  I am ten years old.  I like where I live, I have good friends, a nice house, and I live close to my school.  If my neighborhood gets Smart Meters I will have to move. I don’t want to move because I have the perfect place to live for me.  If I don’t move I will get headaches, and my mom will suffer, as will I.  Smart Meters have made bad things happen for me and my family.  I don’t want to have Smart Meters on my house, in my neighborhood, or in my town.  I don’t think it is right to force people to have a Smart Meter on their home, or pay more not to have one. There could be people like me who are sensitive to Smart Meters and don’t know.  I want to protect my town but PG&E doesn’t care.  They don’t care that people could get sick from what they are putting on our homes.”

When she was 8 years old she talked about how just walking by a Smart Meter gave her flash headaches. See video below.

CPUC Smart Meter Judge Gets an Earful in Santa Rosa

The fifth and final California Pubic Utility Commission (CPUC) Smart Meter public participation hearing on the Smart Meter opt out program was held yesterday in Santa Rosa, California.  People came from as far away as Santa Cruz, Mendocino and Sacramento to speak to the CPUC judge, Amy Yip-Kikugawa, who allowed each person 2 minutes to talk.

Stop Smart Meters organized a bus from Santa Cruz which also picked up people from San Francisco, and Marin and Alameda counties.

An estimated 200+ people attended the hearing and 100 speakers signed up to comment on PG&E Smart Meters which many said had caused them serious health problems. Heart palpitations, headaches, tinnitus and sleep problems were common complaints. The hearing lasted fours hours, which was two hours longer than scheduled.

One meter reader from Marin told the judge that PG&E was covering up Smart Meter fires and that he lost his job for not being quiet. He said when a customer had their power remotely turned on, after a a delinquent bill was paid up, the Smart Meters were frying.

An article in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, “PG&E gets earful over SmartMeters at Santa Rosa hearing” reports on the hearing, although the article errs by stating the World Health Organization (WHO) has not found “a provable link” between SmartMeters and health.  In May 2011, the WHO classified radio frequency (RF) radiation (aka wireless) as a 2b carcinogen, same as DDT and lead.  The classification was based on long term cell phone studies, but is applicable to all wireless devices: cell phones, DECT and cordless phones, wi-fi, cell towers, baby monitors, Smart Meters and other wireless devices.

The CPUC held five hearings in all: Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, San Clemente and Santa Rosa. Here’s a media report from Santa Barbara: Edison Customers Express Concern, Frustration Over Installation of Smart Meters. 

Speakers comments will become part of the record in the Smart Meter opt out proceeding. Parties in the proceeding will next file briefs which are due January 11, 2013. A Commission decision is expected sometime next spring, or early summer of 2013.

If you were unable to attend these hearings, you may submit written comments to the to the CPUC’s Public Advisor’s Office at the address noted below. Please refer to the application filing number, A.11-­03-­014 et al, when writing. Please state if you would like a response, otherwise no response will be sent. Your comments will become a part of the formal file for public comment in this proceeding. The Public Advisor’s Office will circulate your comments to the five Commissioners, the ALJ, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), and to CPUC staff assigned to this proceeding.

Wonder what happened to PG&E’s analog meters?

The Division of  Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) is a consumer advocacy division within the California Public Utility Commission (CPUC).  The DRA’s statutory mission is “to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels.  In fulfilling this goal, DRA also advocates for customer and environmental protections.”

The DRA asked PG&E to explain what they did with the analog meters after they removed them and installed Smart Meters.  PG&E  responded that although they could have gotten $1 each ($1 x millions of meters) but because the vendors wanted the meters “sorted, boxed, and palletized”, PG&E decided selling the meters was not cost-effective. Instead PG&E disposed of millions of analog meters for free to scrap metal recyclers.

“The chosen recyclers were able to pick up the meters at no cost to PG&E and the decision was therefore made to use the cost-free recycling approach to dispose of removed meters.”

See full response from PG&E here: PG&E analog meters.

Fire captain finds hazardous power surges follow Smart Meter installations

Matt Beckett is a fire captain who lives in Cameron Park, CA. He sent the following account of serious electrical problems that occurred after Smart Meters were installed on his house:

“My family moved into a 1982 built house approximately nine years ago and remodeled almost everything (including ALL electrical fixtures: lights, fans, switches, sockets, etc). Our home had what I believe to be it’s original analog meter at the panel. Two years ago PG&E replaced that meter with a “Smart Meter”. Immediately following we noticed power surges in the form of our refrigerator motor intermittently speeding up simultaneously with our lights becoming brighter. As a seventeen year veteran and current Fire Captain this caused me to become very concerned. We notified PG&E and called a licensed electrician to come out and assess. Both arrived at our house within one hour. The electrician checked “our side” and PG&E theirs. Nothing was found to be wrong or faulty, but PG&E decided to change out the connections at the power pole just in case. He also pulled the smart meter and replaced it with an analog. Two years have come and gone without any electrical problems. However, on 11/5/12 our analog was replaced with another smart meter. Within one week of this we noticed power surges once again in the form of lights becoming brighter, refrigerator motor becoming louder, motion light activating by itself in no wind conditions, and while vacuuming the motor increasing speed much like the refrigerator. This culminated on 11/25/12 with my wife noticing a plastic like burning smell coming from our office. Upon further inspection we noticed our computer, phone, and shredder were not working. They were plugged into a Belkin brand surge protector that fortunately did it’s job. This caused the carpet to become hot and melted underneath in a dime sized spot and burned up (inside) the surge protector. Immediately, we called PG&E and another electrician as in the past. Both were at our house within an hour and the same result was found. “Our side” checked out fine and PG&E did not notice anything wrong or faulty. The connections at our roof top power drop were changed by PG&E just in case (even though he thought they were fine). However, the smart meter was replaced with another smart meter. Later that evening our family room TV and components were working fine. However, the next morning they had no power. When I inspected the surge protector that they were plugged into, the same condition was found as in our office.”

Some homes just don’t work well with Smart Meters?

Matt spent four hours on the phone with PG&E, dealing with this problem and notifying them of his concerns. He demanded a rush on switching back to an analog meter. He says, “I’ve been met with multiple attitudes and accusations that I’ve not done everything I can do to make sure it’s not my house causing the problem.”  According to Matt, the only time there were electrical problems was when PG&E changed from the analog to the Smart Meter.

Although PG&E tells Matt he can file a claim for the damaged surge protectors, they say he now has to pay $75  plus $10 a month to keep an analog meter on his home.

Matt’s story is similar to the East Bay fire captain who reported electrical problems and a too hot to touch Smart Meter. Arcing Meter Hazards. Evidence is piling up against Smart Meter installations connected to burnt out appliances, fires and explosions.

Sandi Maurer, director of the EMF Safety Network has been compiling Smart Meter related fires stories since 2010. She says, “It is unthinkable that PG&E, other utilities, and regulators in California have neither publicly admitted to, nor squarely addressed this serious safety hazard related to Smart Meter installations. They are failing their statutory obligation to ensure safe and reliable utility service. ”

Smart Meter Infrastructure

PG&E smart meter gas data collector

In California, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) uses two types of antennas to relay and collect data from smart meters.  The smart meters themselves use a mesh network system that transmits pulsed RF radiation sending data from meter to meter. Most of the near constant transmission is for the wireless management system that ensures the system is working.  The PG&E system also uses cell phone antennas to relay data.

The gas data collectors are often mounted on utility poles.  They have a two prong antenna, that looks like a football goal post and that’s mounted above a small  solar collector (not shown).

PG&E electric repeater

Electric repeaters are also mounted on utility poles or streetlights and the antenna points downward.  If you’d like to know where these are located in your area contact your utility company. For PG&E contact Denise Alexander.

PGE electric repeater

Thanks to Amy O’Hair and Angela Flynn for these photos.

Willits Man Refuses to Pay Extortion Fees to Retain Analog Meter, PG&E Threatens Power Cut

Despite the fact that the fees for keeping analog utility meters are still under legal dispute at the CPUC, and serious smart meter safety problems remain unaddressed, PG&E is now threatening to terminate service to its customers who refuse both smart meters and the contested fees.

Tom DeMarchi, a 68 year old Willits resident, has been told by PG&E that he must pay over $100 to retain his analog meter, or else he will have his electricity terminated today. Tom lives in an all-electric house, and although it’s a physical and financial hardship to have the electricity cut off, Tom is willing to live without it rather than submit to PG&E’s extortion fees.

Tom would prefer not to fight with PG&E. He is an environmentalist who pays his bills on time and has reduced his electric usage. He’s willing to self-read his analog meter, still an accepted practice in some areas where meter access is restricted.  However Tom refuses to pay a fee for nothing. He says,

“This is like the Mafia, extortion by crime bosses- Give us money and nothing bad will happen to you. This is wrong, and I am refusing to pay.”

PG&E is forcing customers to pay $75 initially and $10 a month to keep the analog meters, even though the fees are arbitrary and not based on any evaluation of costs. The cost issue is currently under evaluation at the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), and should be resolved by the spring of 2013.

One key question being evaluated by the CPUC is whether the fees violate section 453(b) of the Public Utility Code, which states: “No public utility shall prejudice, disadvantage, or require different rates or deposit amounts from a person because of ancestry, medical condition, marital status or change in marital status, occupation, or any characteristic listed or defined in Section 11135 of the Government Code.” The CPUC is also evaluating whether the fees violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Sandi Maurer, Director of the EMF Safety Network says that customers should not be charged to have analog utility meters. EMF sensitivity is widely recognized by medical and scientific experts, and is both caused and exacerbated by EMF and wireless radiation. According to Maurer:

“The CPUC and PG&E are failing their statutory obligation to ensure safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates. The punitive fees are a desperate attempt to intimidate customers into keeping smart meters.”

Joshua Hart, Director of Stop Smart Meters! says that PG&E is going too far, risking alienating the public by cutting off services to bill-paying customers, when any proposed fee has not even been finalized by regulators:

“Arbitrarily cutting off power to our senior citizens just as winter approaches should not be taken lightly. PG&E has jeopardized people’s safety before and they are doing it again.”

Smart meter fires and explosions have been widely reported including several within PG&E territory.  In August, a series of 26 smart meter fires in Pennsylvania forced PECO Energy to halt installations, sparking inquiries in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Illinois.  Yet the CPUC has simply not investigated these fires, nor the thousands of complaints of health problems reported to them by members of the public.

It is unclear upon what legal grounds PG&E is terminating service for those refusing to pay the punitive fees.  Last year PG&E backed down under public pressure after terminating utility service to women and families who had their smart meters removed and restored with analogs.

Stop Smart Meters! and the EMF Safety Network collaborated on this coverage.