California Town Enacts Ban on Wireless SmartMeters

31 12 2010

Fairfax enacts ban on ‘SmartMeter’ installation

Posted: 08/05/2010 12:17:47 PM PDT
The Fairfax Town Council unanimously approved an ordinance banning the installation of remote-controlled utility meters within the town’s borders Wednesday despite a last-minute promise by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. that it would stop installing its trademarked SmartMeters in Fairfax.“As a company, we plan to hold off on any further deployment in the Town of Fairfax until we are able to help educate your public,” PG&E spokesman Josh Townsend said before the Fairfax Town Council. “We know we’ve had problems in communicating what SmartMeters are and how they work, and we’re looking forward to taking the opportunity to really do that.” 

The utility’s offer was welcomed by Fairfax leaders, who had expressed concerns about the safety, accuracy and data collection abilities of the wireless devices. The council previously had asked the state Public Utilities Commission to place a moratorium on SmartMeter installation and had invoked the town’s cell tower ordinance to block PG&E from installing antennas that transmit SmartMeter data within the town’s borders.

“This is a welcome and significant shift in how this debate has been going,” said Fairfax Mayor Lew Tremaine, who met privately with PG&E officials Wednesday afternoon. “I appreciate the fact that PG&E has agreed to stop deployment in town until we have these conversations. We’ll listen to what (they) have to say – we won’t swallow it whole cloth – but we’ll listen, if (they’ll) listen to us.”

Yet PG&E refused to say how long the company would wait before continuing the installation process. Townsend acknowledged that the company had already installed 200 of the 8,000 wireless meters intended for Fairfax.

And the company’s olive branch did little to convince many Fairfax residents, who urged the council to impose its moratorium. Many expressed anger at the utility for both the SmartMeter installation and the company’s earlier ballot campaign to defeat Marin Clean Energy, a plan to create an alternate, county-owned utility that has found particular support in Fairfax.

“In pushing Proposition 16, PG&E showed its real face,” said Cascade Drive resident David Glick. “The company doesn’t really give a damn about promoting green energy or reducing our carbon footprint. And their insistence on deploying wireless SmartMeters shows how little concern they have for the health and safety of the public.”

PG&E has argued that its SmartMeters will help reduce overall energy consumption by providing the utility with detailed information about the ways its customers use electricity and gas. But the company has been plagued with reports that the wireless devices inaccurately report gas and electricity usage since the company began installing the meters in 2009.

In addition, critics have argued that the electromagnetic radiation produced by the devices could be dangerous – an assertion that the company has vigorously disputed.

“My general impression thus far is that the emission levels are not much stronger than your average cell phone site a block or two away,” said Stephen Scott, a remediation specialist at EMF Services, a Florida-based electromagnetic field measurement consulting firm. “But it’s one more part of a growing wireless environment people are concerned about.”

The Town Council approved its moratorium on SmartMeter installation by a vote of 4-0, with Councilman John Reed absent from the meeting. Because the ordinance was adopted as an urgency item on the council’s agenda, the council was able to adopt it with a single reading, Town Manager Michael Rock said.

Fairfax is hardly alone in its opposition to SmartMeters. Marin supervisors asked the California Public Utilities Commission on July 20 to suspend PG&E’s $2.2 billion installation program until the commission completes an ongoing review of the device’s accuracy. The Marin Association of Realtors has also called for a moratorium on SmartMeter installation, as have the cities and towns of Cotati, Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz. In San Francisco, the city attorney asked for a moratorium on installation of more SmartMeters and the request is being reviewed by a judge.

Contact Rob Rogers via e-mail at rrogers@marinij.com.

SOURCE: Mercury News.com

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