WatchSonoma Watch

PG&E gets earful over SmartMeters at Santa Rosa hearing


Two hundred people turned out Thursday in Santa Rosa to rail against PG&E SmartMeters, complaining that individual opt-out fees are unfair, that cities should be able to get out of the program and that the wireless technology is a health threat.

“Do not impose a tariff to opt out, and allow communities to opt out,” Fairfax Town Councilman Larry Bragman told a administrative law judge who was conducting a public hearing on behalf of the California Public Utilities Commission. “If you do that, you will drive more innovative solutions.”

Michael Kyes, the mayor of Sebastopol, speaks during the public comment session at a PUC meeting on Smart Meters at the Steele Lane Community Center in Santa Rosa on Dec. 20, 2012. (John Burgess/The Press Democrat)

“It is unconscionable to extort money for safety, especially for people who cannot afford the cost of removal of this toxic device,” said Ami Hartley.

Judge Amy Yip-Kikugawa will preparing a report for the PUC addressing whether the fees PG&E charges customers who refuse to have a SmartMeter installed are justified.

A second issue is whether a community, whether it is a senior citizens complex or a city, should be able to opt out.

The Thursday hearing, held at the Steele Lane Community Center, was the fifth and last to be held in the state. Other hearings were in Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Bakersfield and Sacramento.

The judge’s recommendations are expected to be presented to the commission in the spring in an advance of a vote in the summer on modification to the SmartMeter system, commission officials said.

PG&E began installing SmartMeters in February 2010, promoting the wireless meters as a way for consumers to better analyze their energy use and make smarter choices about and possibly reduce energy use.

It is also a cost-cutting measure for the utility, which can reduce staffing and save money by employing fewer meter readers.

The meters and the wireless technology, much the same as cell phones, immediately drew complaints that the radio emissions are a health risk and the meters are inaccurate.

“Two meters were put in and I started getting shooting pains and headaches,” Rebecca Heisler told the judge. “Within six weeks I had to leave my house.”

The World Health Organization is among the major medical organizations that have not found a provable link between SmartMeter technology and poor health.

SmartMeter critics say that the American Academy of Environmental Medicine is among the groups that have urged a moratorium on SmartMeters pending further study into potential health issues related to radio-wave transmissions.,

In Sonoma County, the meters have faced a storm of protest, particularly in Sebastopol, home of the EMF (electromagnetic frequency) Safety Network.

The Sebastopol City Council has called for PG&E to allow entire municipalities, such as Sebastopol, to opt out of the SmartMeter program. That is one option under consideration by the PUC.

“Our City Council believes people should have a choice and they should without cost,” said Councilwoman Sarah Gurney. “Plus, give our community an opportunity to opt out.”

Under the opt-out program approved by the PUC in February, customers are allowed to keep their traditional meters for a one-time fee of $75 and a $10 monthly fee to cover the cost of having the meters read. Low-income customers who qualify for PG&E’s CARE program pay a $10 setup fee and monthly charges of $5.

PG&E spokeswoman Brittany McKannay said there are 71,000 meters in Sonoma County, and 85 percent of them are the new SmartMeters. About 3,200 residential customers have opted out.

Sebastopol is the final area in Sonoma County to be getting the new meters, with 2,400 of the 12,260 meters having been upgraded, McKannay said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or bob.norberg@pressdemocrat.com.)

20 Responses to “PG&E gets earful over SmartMeters at Santa Rosa hearing”

  1. Chuck G says:

    What do you expect from all those knuckleheads out in Sebastopol.

    Oh by the way, go cook your dinner outside over your campfire in the front yard while your at it.

  2. James Bennett says:

    Steve Humphrey: I have three small business’. I marked it on my calender, left work to be there because it was important.
    Your inference that those that attended don’t have a life isn’t well taken.

  3. Cristian Pagua says:

    I’m glad people are doing this, they put “SmartMeters” to. Charge you more. You get charged more for using electricity during the daytime.

  4. Steve Humphrey says:

    Funny how the Press Democrat makes such a big deal of the turnouts criticism of the Smartmeter program as though this is the general consensus. Who did they think was going to show up in the middle of a workday?

  5. Over Easy says:

    I can understand not wanting the SMART meter based on fear of billing mistakes but to put it off on electronic poisoning is just ignorant.

    There are 100′s of RF signals hitting you right now, this very second, and have been for all your life. The sun puts out more RF energy than any regulated RF device by about 1 million times.

    Grow up and take your radiation like big boy.

  6. Kay Tokerud says:

    It’s funny how some on here are completely sure that smart meters don’t cause any health problems. They must be scientists. I certainly don’t know, except now I have ringing in my ears that I never had before. It’s impossible to know for sure with the assortment of EMF, etc. all around us. I’m reducing my exposure wherever possible, getting rid of my smart meter, moving my cellphone away from my body and cancelling satellite TV. I use speakerphone whenever possible, etc. I don’t feel any difference but who knows?

    It’s obvious though too that smart meters can monitor our use of energy in our homes at the very least. At the same time smart meters are coming out, carbon taxing is about to happen that will put our lives under the microscope. No more unlimited use of power, water or driving our cars. Cars will all have GPS devices on them soon. The upcoming One Bay Area Plan will calculate Vehicle Miles Travelled so they can tax our driving. New housing will have smart electrical outlets, thermostats, appliances, water heaters, you name it.

    We are moving into the new austerity, the new spartan lifestyle where rationing will be imposed. How does that sound to you? Us older folks will escape most of what’s coming but the younger people will have radically different lives than we have had. Even healthcare will be rationed. Why spend money on fixing up old people anyway? Our lives will be monitored and controlled by those in power that can decide what’s best for us. After all, we are killing the planet with our selfish lifestyles aren’t we? That’s what they are telling us. It’s all for the common good, the homeland, the fatherland. If you don’t speak up and object to what big government has in store for us then you are consenting. So keep telling yourself that they wouldn’t do a thing like that so you can sit there and do nothing at all. Thanks to all the people who invest their time and make their voices heard.

  7. Tom says:

    Since my smart meter was installed I have had a lot of issues with my wifi for my computer. It often is very slow and at times lcks up as I try to change websites.I always wonder if it is due to the interferance from this so call smart meter.

  8. James Bennett says:

    Thre is international recognition of adverse health effects from Smart Meters and cell phone towers.
    Some are much more effected than others. The effects can be cumulative.


    Fluoride is good for you, vaccines are too and the UN is a peace keeping organization.

  9. Tenth Gate says:

    All of these comments attempt to describe reality. Time will tell how or if the meters are injurious. I just think its dumb to expose millions to something 24/7 before real data is collected on effects. Beware of programs called “smart”. The label is often given to cover dumb steps along the way.

  10. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    This could be a classic example of the nemesis effect; the accumulation of mankind’s pollution which increases environmental pressures on natural cycles, per the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God (see the first line of the United States Declaration of Independence).

    You can just add electromagnetic fields (EMFs) to all the other forms of pollution generated by human activity. When life chose me, there were approximately 2.5 billion humans on this planet. Now there are over 7 billion humans, and each one is adding to the accumulation of pollutants. The only way to reduce our pollution may be to control our population growth. Good luck everyone.

    What me worry? – thumbs up
    We are doomed! – thumbs down

  11. Follower, whatever his real name is, has identified the real issue: Each Smart Meter becomes a node in an interactive system. If there are smart appliances in your house, as there will be increasing numbers of in the future, then it should be possible for PGE to set your thermostat for you, or otherwise override your personal control of your energy use. Not a future I’m sanguine about.

  12. Cynthe Brush says:

    ‘Follower’ makes a good point…that we’re getting RF exposure from home wall outlets, WiFi, cell phones, cell towers, etc. but is wrong about “the tiny, occasional blurp of Data sent by your extremely low power SMART meter.”

    My hubby measured our neighbor’s smartmeter shortly after it was installed. It transmits almost constantly ~ not a couple of times a day as P,G&E propagandized ~ and has at least a 3 foot field of EMF registering in the ‘dangerous to biological health’ level.

    If you research health impacts of EMF from experts in the field (not PG&E or the Center for Disease Control), you will discover even very low levels of constant EMF exposure can be detrimental, causing cellular damage in our DNA.

    Good reason not to run your WiFi 24/7, to avoid WiFi in the workplace, not to carry your cell phone near your body or hold it to your head, not to sleep under electric blankets or have an electric clock-radio near your pillow. We need to reduce EMF in our environment. Humans and other creatures were not ‘engineered’ to thrive in this electronic smog. This isn’t an issue of imagined illnesses or health dangers.

  13. Nora Gonzales says:

    It doesn’t really take much to get the folks and mayor in Sebastopol cranked up. Witness the frenzy over the smart meters. EMF has not killed or injuried anyone in the town, but they are ready to burn the new witch, EMF.

    First, they prevented an atomic bomb being dropped on the little burg with their nuclear free zone, now they are going after EMF. Some of the same people in Sebastopol believe cars and trucks are works of the devil, believe EMF will fry their brains.

    News flash, this is the 21st century and technological progress cannot be stopped.

    This is a tempest in a teapot.

  14. Dan Drummond Sr says:

    This could be a classic example of the nocebo effect; a “communicated” disease, where people feel ill or are convinced they have symptoms after being told that something is harmful.

    They should try a placebo power meter; a SmartMeter disguised as a traditional meter. It would be interesting to see if SmartMeter syndrome symptoms go away.

    Wind turbine syndrome is a similar thing.

    Many things in life are placebos or nocebos, like religion.
    Placebo (Latin, “I shall please”) – thumbs up
    Nocebo (Latin, “I shall harm”) – thumbs down

  15. Peter E. Iodence says:

    Since where on Meters, I only wish the citizens of santa rosa were as vocal as the stupid electronic parking meters the city put in. They’re horrible! Try running over to get your ticket in one these of these downpours and tell me how you feel about them.

  16. Reality Check says:

    While the purpose of electronic meters goes beyond simple efficiency, that alone justifies their adoption. It is just plain dump to send out a meter reader every month when the same information can be transmitted electronically.

    As to the alleged health risks, if true then we’d all better move about 100 miles away from the nearest city.

  17. jim says:

    The idea that you can escape or significantly reduce electromagnetic waves by oopting out of your smart meter is ludicrous. Every time you pass someone talking on a cell phone you are exposed to more than your smart meter. This is a good program to identify the county hypochondriacs and conspiracy theorists…. Oh, FYI you can block all the effects of emf by drinking fluoridated water – otherwise, emf causes shooting pains, depression, disassociative fugue, unwelcome thoughts, and general malaise.

  18. Follower says:

    This SMART meter thing reminds me of Area51. Classic case of “watch the birdie”.
    Let the people fret over a non-issue so they’ll be too busy to see the REAL issue.

    EMF? PLEASE!!!

    You get more RF exposure from the wall warts you have running your electronics all around your home (not to mention your WiFi, Cell Phone and on & on) than you’ll get in a lifetime of the tiny, occasional blurp of Data sent by your extremely low power SMART meter.

    And while everyone is putting all their energy into this ridiculous non-issue, nobody (except people like James Bennett) is even paying any attention to the REAL issue.
    But you will!

    Once they have a steady stream of hard data on everyone’s energy usage, how long do you suppose it will be before they expand the “Carbon Credit” scam to the REST OF the end users?
    “But I’m not emitting any C02” just by turning my lights on! REALLY?
    Unless you have a roof full of solar panels you most certainly ARE!

    What a great way to advance the “Green Agenda”!

    And isn’t it ironic that the very people protesting the SMART meter are ultimately protesting against their most passionately held belief?
    “Big Government control over every aspect of our lives.”

    It brings the term “useful idiot” to a whole new level!

  19. Reality Check says:

    “Smart Meters are a big part of this totalitarian picture.”

    With quotes like this, who need the comics?

  20. James Bennett says:

    I was there.

    People drove for hours to speak for two minutes.

    Professional, credible citizens speaking out about how the EMF frequencies have devastated their lives.

    The scientifically documented list of health problems would hardly fit on one page with small print.

    These people leave their homes and business’ to live like vegabonds, financially ruined.

    The Smart meters are in integral part of a complete template of oppression called the Smart grid. This is a place where you walk, ride your bike or use public transportation. Where you are catalogued and inventoried like government merchandise. Where you are survieled from cameras everywhere. Where your limited travel, your actions, and even your rights and your consumptions are reduced to a kind of commodity to be granted by and reconciled through the state (Cap ‘n Trade, Vehicle Miles Traveled, much more).

    Smart Meters are a big part of this totalitarian picture. A technocracy of control.

    These globalists which your public servants have taken the liberty (literally) of aligning with are preoccupied with the focus, manipulation, pulse and resonance of energy, especially EMF energy. I won’t go into it now, we’re still getting folks to stop rolling there eyes over the damage of Smart Meters.

    It’s just a train. It’s just a meter. It’s just a regulation. It’s just “planning”…

    It’s just our lives.