County renews smart meter ban

02/06/2014

A moratorium on the installation of Pacific Gas & Electric smart meters was renewed Tuesday by county supervisors to allow time for the state utilities regulator to develop policies for individuals, and possibly communities, choosing to opt out. Bans of the wireless meter now exist in over a dozen towns, cities and counties in California, including Sebastopol and Fairfax. The utility says the meters allow customers to better monitor and moderate their energy use, but opponents believe there may be health and privacy impacts and that opt-out fees are unjust. Customers who elect to keep analog meters must pay a $75 fee plus $10 monthly. The California Council on Science and Technology issued a report in 2011 reviewing available research on the meters, finding they produced lower levels of radio frequency than cell phones and microwaves. Although some studies have shown emissions from cell phones could affect human cells, the council said the evidence is inconclusive and that studies have found effects of long-term, low-level exposure “not so profound so as to be easily discernable.” Nonetheless, the report added, “Consideration could be given to alternative smart meter configurations (such as wired) in those cases where wireless meters continue to be concern to customers.” About half a dozen people spoke in support of Marin’s moratorium on Tuesday—a ban supervisors have renewed annually since 2011—with one San Anselmo resident railing against the California Public Utility Commission’s failure to reign in the smart meter program, which she claimed “uses intimidation and lies to deploy defective devices which infringe on our privacy, security and safety within our own homes.” No one spoke out against the moratorium.