On Preventing Deployment of “Smart” Meters
Suggestions from Elizabeth Kelley, public health advocate
– An excerpt from An Electronic Silent Spring
Since 2005, following enactment of the Federal Energy Policy Act and initial funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Smart Grid Program has provided annual demonstration grants to spur “innovation” and expedite deployment. State public utility commissions have promoted “smart” metering, supposedly to achieve efficiency and conservation goals. While utility companies and public utility commissions are not prohibited from considering concerns about “smart” meters, they have worked hard to overcome customer objections, including those based on meters’ effects on health, privacy, fire hazards, the grid’s susceptibility to hacking and higher customer utility bills.
Many cities and counties have implemented moratoriums on “smart” meters’ installation in order to allow time to study concerns about health, privacy and cost-effectiveness. While a moratorium is not binding and may not impede a utility company’s activities, it sends a strong political message to state utility regulators and state legislators. California, Maine and Vermont have conducted health studies. Maine conducted a cost-effectiveness study. Several administrative appeals and lawsuits have been filed at the state level and in federal courts. Some states have contested the overall cost-effectiveness of the “smart” Grid. Some utilities have created opt-out or self-reading programs for ratepayers who prefer to keep their analog meters.
Meanwhile, the race is on to complete installation of the program across the country. Unfortunately, the burden of proof that transmitting meters harm, as well as the burden of refusing a transmitting digital “smart” meter and insisting on a mechanical meter, fall on citizen-ratepayers.
Here are some suggestions for utility customers and local government agencies to get their concerns addressed:
1. Ask your local government to pass a moratorium on installing any “smart” meters to permit a “study period” that studies “smart” meters’ health effects, cost/benefits, fire safety, privacy issues and erroneous billing issues. Many communities in California and British Columbia have adopted such moratoriums. Stopsmartmeters.org has more info.
2. Write down the make and model numbers of each meter (for electric, gas and water) on your property, and learn as much as you can about them. Do any transmit radiofrequencies? If so, how often? You may have to rent or borrow an RF meter to determine each meter’s duty cycle. Utilities may under-report the duty cycle. Some “smart” meters emit microbursts 15,000 times each day. Research your utility companies’ schedules for updating their meters. Learn about their self-reading programs and opt-out plans.
3. Do any of the meters on your property interfere with your TV, medical implants, sleep apnea machines or other appliances or devices? Find out if/when transmitting meters were placed on your property. Has anyone’s health in your household changed since then? Pay particular attention to health or behavioral changes in children and pets.
4. Secure your analog meter with a lock so that it can’t be removed.
5. Send the utility a certified letter that refuses the installation of an RF transmitting meter on your property and that requests placement on their permanent opt-out list. (See Jerry Day’s suggested letter in this appendix.)
6. Require utility workers who enter your property to show company identification. If the utility company contacts you about installing a new meter, ask for the make and model number before installers arrive and research it. Tell installers that you do not permit them to enter property or to install a new meter without your permission; and, if you prefer, without your being present. If they trespass your property, call police. Form a neighborhood watch. Film encounters with utility meter installers.
If you or your neighbors already have an RF transmitting meter installed:
7. Keep your distance from it (pets, children and plants, too) as well as you can. With varying success, some people have shielded the meters. Seek advice from a qualified electrical engineer to ensure that shielding is properly installed. Recognize that “smart” meters on neighboring homes and businesses may increase RF emission levels around your home that you cannot control.
8. With a certified letter (a sample is available at freedomtaker.com), revoke your consent to have the transmitting meter installed and set a deadline for its removal. Insist that the replacement meter be an electromechanical analog meter. Request that the utility confirm that its replacement (to an electro-mechanical analog meter) be in writing.
Don’t be a NIMBY. Advocate for needed changes in federal policies that will ensure more health protections and restore local control over public utilities (electricity, gas, water and telecommunications) that provide essential services to benefit society. Once you’ve gained experience in opposing antennas or “smart” meters, pay it forward by sharing with others what you have learned.