California is a state known to study and regulate everything to death.
The overly meticulous nature of the State’s regulatory structure is designed to ensure the safety of both its natural resources and its residents. However, regulation, investigation, studies, hearings, and public discourse don’t seem to be hindering PG&E as they speed ahead to install their SmartMeters across the state.
Over the protests of individuals, cities, counties, and soon-to-be-unemployed workers, PG&E and its supporters have ignored requests for diligence and responsibility in the process to place wireless SmartMeters across the state.
Some of the latest, and most formal, requests have come from the Marin County Board of Supervisors. On behalf of the County, Board President Susan Adams sent letters to various officials in January.
She wrote California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey. She implored his Commission to “consider adopting policies that would allow those with personal health concerns to have alternative metering options without wireless frequency components available to them.”
Supervisor Adams’ letter also mentioned two previous letters the Board sent to the CPUC in 2010. They all went unanswered.
She wrote to Governor Brown and urged him to “appoint new PUC commissioners that will be more responsive.”
An additional letter from the Board of Supervisors went to the Federal Communications Commission, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, and Congresswoman Woolsey, asking them to re-evaluate the effects of the meters, and offer information about any current or planned studies into the matter.
The concern that Supervisor Adams mentions in her letters is the yet-to-be-determined impact of constant, and direct, exposure to the SmartMeters’ wireless frequencies and electromagnetic fields (EMF).
The state’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates has seen inconclusive studies into the effects of the SmartMeters. In a memo issued by their Acting Director, Joseph Como, the DRA has not taken a position on whether or not the SmartMeters have any health impacts, but notes that additional factors that can impact [Radio Frequency] exposure from SmartMeters [are] not addressed… and should be examined more closely.”
One of the issues that hasn’t fully been investigated is the effect that multiple, co-located units could have. Citing a Sage Associates report, a bank of eight SmartMeters could exceed FCC Guidelines for EMF. Additionally, some of the tested meters operate at power levels four times lower than the ones installed by PG&E.
Understandably, PG&E does not immediately gain the trust of a public who has had its systematically disregarded in the past. Those breaches of public confidence have cost Californians their lives.
While the effect of the RF and EMF technologies in the SmartMeters may only be questionable, people now instinctively react with caution, rather than haste.
Marin County is part of a growing coalition that has objected to PG&E’s SmartMeters. They passed a one-year moratorium on the installation of the devices. The towns of Fairfax and Watsonville, along with the County of Santa Cruz all have laws prohibiting PG&E from installing SmartMeters.
But PG&E claims only the California Public Utility Commission has the authority to stop them, and has not only continued retrofitting their connections with the devices, it appears they’ve accelerated the process.
San Luis Obispo, which according to one PG&E employee, wasn’t supposed to receive the SmartMeters for up to two years, had more than 113,000 meters scheduled for installation at the end of last year.
As the process moves forward, meter readers are finding themselves facing termination. For one employee whose territory was encroached upon by the new meters, the transfer to San Luis Obispo was supposed to help him keep his job for two more years. But PG&E’s accelerated installation schedule has him facing the end of his career.
During the worst recession in generations, PG&E’s hurry to install the SmartMeters is hurrying job losses in an already hurting California.
Instead, PG&E should heed the calls from its consumers and work with California’s municipalities and their residents to take reasonable measures to address their concerns.
Answer Marin County’s questions about how environmental or collocation factors can impact the EMF levels of SmartMeters. Answer questions about what long-term effects exposure may have. Offer a choice of meters to residents.
It’s time that PG&E works with Californians, and reassures us all that they don’t disregard our safety. Especially in the wake of the San Bruno tradgedy.