By BOB NORBERG
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
More than a dozen people urged the Sebastopol City Council Tuesday to ban SmartMeters, which they contend may be unsafe, even if there are doubts of what jurisdiction the city has.
“We have to figure it out,” said Dennis Machado. “The cavalry isn’t coming. John Wayne isn’t coming. We have to do it ourselves.”
But Vice Mayor Guy Wilson noted that the issue before the council wasn’t whether PG&E’s SmartMeters are good or bad, but what authority the city has and what it would cost in time and money if the city chose to oppose their installation.
“We need to be mindful of what power we have,” said Wilson, who has a Santa Rosa law practice.
SmartMeters are high-tech devices that transmit electric and gas usage data by wireless transmissions.
Mayor Sarah Gurney asked the city attorney to provide a report on the city’s options, potential liability and the costs if the city joined other petitions against PG&E or enacted its own ban or moratorium.
So far, PG&E has not challenged any of the cities or counties that have passed ordinances banning the meters, but City Attorney Larry McLaughlin said there is no definitive legal opinion on the validity of such ordinances. “We have looked for a legal opinion and have found none,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin will report back to the council at its Oct. 5 meeting.
SmartMeters have been controversial since PG&E began installing them several months ago, with questions of their accuracy and of the health effects of the radiation emitted by the transmission of data.
The debates have been emotionally heated, with barely controlled anger from many critics who contend PG&E’s lack of credibility on the information it provides.
“We believe PG&E is misleading the public … it is frustrating to try to get information at all,” said Sandi Mauer of the Electromagnetic Field Safety Network.
“We need to pass a ban on SmartMeters, like Fairfax has done, and join the petition to the Public Utilities Commission to devaluate the health impacts that are very serious,” Alan Horn.