Paula Orloff: Why stop smart meters? | TheUnion.com

Paula Orloff: Why stop smart meters?

Other Voices
Paula Orloff

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) granted utility companies the right to roll out smart meters. Now state and U.S. Attorney Generals are conducting a criminal investigation of the former CPUC president for corruption, bribery and collusion with utility companies. The CPUC is supposed to protect the interests of consumers rather than the handsome profits of utility companies. New emails brought to light between the CPUC and utility companies reveal the extent of corruption and backroom dealing that resulted in the state's smart meter program:

1. Smart meters have caused extensive overbilling. No less than the now-former CPUC president, Michael Peevey, complained to PG&E there was something "screwy" about his utility bill, which doubled when a smart meter was installed on his spacious 3,118-square-foot second home. I'm sure the utility adjusted his bill pronto, unlike overbilling complaints by many thousands of ordinary customers. Other emails show that on Aug. 31, 2010, PG&E's Brian Cherry sent an email to Peevey, warning smart meters were overcharging. In April 2011, CPUC's Aloke Gupta emailed staff about inflated billing from smart meters.

2. Emails show the opt out fees are designed to discourage customers from opting out of the smart meter program. CPUC's current Director of Policy and Planning (and former utility industry employee) Marzia Zafar stated that if there is not an initial opt out fee "… you'll have more like 20 percent to 50 percent opt out." That is, if they remove the costly opt out charge, up to half of California's electric customers may opt out of smart meters given all the publicity around safety and accuracy problems.

3. Peevey has admitted, "There really are people who feel pain, etc. related to EMFs…" Peevey's observation came to light in a 2010 email with former PG&E Vice President Brian Cherry. Peevey goes on to suggest ways to avoid publicity about sickness from smart meters. In another email, Peevey's chief of staff, Carol Brown writes to PG&E, "…So far I have done OK just listening to the sad tales of EMF poisoning…and then not offering them any solution!"

Smart meters can be an especially harmful form of wireless radiation since they emit high spikes of microwaves every several seconds. It's only a blip you might say, but studies show the 24/7 high emission zapping is hazardous even if you can't see or smell it (like toxins such as mercury or X-rays that you can't see or smell). For some, the effects are immediate causing symptoms that can include headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory problems, and cardiac impairment. For others, the effects are cumulative and delayed. Now that smart meters have been operating (lamely) for a few years in many locations, there is abundant research on the health effects that can't be ignored. The reluctant admission of health damage by the head of the PUC is based on large numbers of individual medical complaints. These reports have moved researchers to do in depth studies which provide evidence of neurological and organ damage due to smart meters.

Fires caused by smart meters have also become a serious issue. Hundreds of thousands of smart meters have now been recalled due to fire risk. People have died from smart meter fires. The website http://www.emfsafetynetwork.org/smartmeterfires has a lengthy list of smart meter fires reported by cities and individuals.

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What can we do to stop smart meters? Unlike other wireless devices, we cannot turn them off, move them out of our path, or easily switch to wired technology. Over 50 cities and counties in California have passed resolutions or ordinances calling for removal or ban of smart meters. That's significant. Write the Nevada City Council and ask them to recall/ban smart meters. They are currently considering this request presented to them by Stop Smart Meters of Nevada County. In addition, ask the Nevada City Council to request the CPUC/PG&E remove or refund opt out fees. You can also call PG&E and tell them you want to opt out of the wireless smart meter program (though presently you will be charged). Meanwhile, other legal approaches have yielded results for cities and individuals. See http://www.smartmeterlawsuits.blogspot.com.

Think these concerns are bogus? Hundreds of organizations, government agencies, cities and countries have called for removal of smart meters, other wireless devices, or protective measures. Check it out. See http://www.EHtrust.org or electronicsilentspring.com. Contact Stop Smart Meters of Nevada County for support, websites, books, DVD copies and meetings at 530-477-5522 or 530-273-0650 or email stopsmartmetersofnevadacounty@gmail.com.

Paula Orloff lives in Nevada City.

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