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PG&E won’t comply with Sebastopol SmartMeter ban


Sebastopol and PG&E appear to be on a collision course following the city’s adoption Thursday of a ban on the installation of SmartMeters, the controversial wireless devices that critics contend are a threat to public health.

PG&E, which is spending $2.3 billion to install SmartMeters throughout its service area from Eureka to Bakersfield, will not comply, a spokesman said.

Smartmeter 3:2The city’s measure, citing the “potential risks to the health, safety and welfare of Sebastopol residents,” imposed a moratorium, effective immediately, with a $500 fine for violations.

“We cannot agree to a moratorium,” PG&E’s Paul Moreno said.

As a state-regulated utility, PG&E “operates under the exclusive jurisdiction” of the California Public Utilities Commission, he said.

PG&E will continue to install SmartMeters in the city, Moreno said, noting residential gas and electric customers have the right to opt out of the technology.

PG&E notifies customers by phone and letter before installing SmartMeters, and advises them of the right to decline them and pay monthly fees for that option, Moreno said.

Sebastopol has been ground zero for a leading SmartMeter resistance group, the EMF Safety Network, and opponents hailed the City Council’s unanimous action at a special meeting called Thursday solely for that vote.

“I’m glad to see democracy in action. It’s heartwarming,” said Alan Horn of Sebastopol, who spoke in favor of the ordinance.

City Manager Larry McLaughlin said it would remain in effect until the council takes further action.

“It starts today and it will last indefinitely,” McLaughlin told the council and 14 people attending the meeting.

Asked by Councilman John Eder what happens to residents who want SmartMeters removed from their homes, McLaughlin, who is also the city’s attorney, said the measure “cannot compel removal of meters already installed.”

PG&E has 21,000 gas and electrical meters at homes and businesses in the Sebastopol area and has upgraded 7,100 of them to SmartMeters, Moreno said.

About 1,100 customers have opted out of the change, representing fewer than 10 percent of customers, he said.

PG&E has upgraded about 9.5 million gas and electric meters to SmartMeters throughout its service area and expects to complete the program with nearly 500,000 upgrades this year.

Systemwide, the opt-out rate is less than 1 percent, Moreno said.

The state PUC is considering the idea of allowing communities to opt out of SmartMeters, a step Sebastopol has endorsed.

Councilman Patrick Slayter voiced the only council reservation on the meter installation ban, saying some people are neutral on the issue and others want a SmartMeter.

“That freedom of choice also needs to be protected,” he said.

“I would be fine having one installed,” John Henel of Sebastopol told the council. “I don’t need you to protect me from meters.”

“We weren’t afraid of second-hand smoke either,” resident Dave Hubert said, referring to the time before smoke’s effect on non-smokers was documented. “This is being done as a precautionary approach.”

The ordinance says “significant health questions have been raised” over the electromagnetic frequency radiation emitted by the wireless meters, which eliminate the need for meter readers.

McLaughlin said the ordinance does not distinguish between people who do or do not want SmartMeters.

Slayter also expressed concern that the $500 fine could be assessed against a PG&E employee or contract worker who is “just doing his job.”

The council took no action on his proposal to set the fine no higher than $1.

Moreno declined to speculate on what might happen if someone was cited for violating the moratorium.

Other cities have imposed moratoriums, he said, and PG&E has continued to install SmartMeters in those areas.

McLaughlin said earlier that about 50 other cities have adopted measures like Sebastopol’s and he declined to discuss their legality.

“I’m not sure this is a legal ordinance, an enforceable ordinance,” Slayter said Thursday.

PG&E began installing SmartMeters three years ago, promoting the wireless meters as a way for consumers to better manage their energy and save money.

Mayor Michael Kyes challenged that concept, saying it depended largely on people turning off air conditioners during peak summer power use periods and that few people in Sebastopol have air conditioners.

“The savings that are expected are not going to materialize,” he said.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)


19 Responses to “PG&E won’t comply with Sebastopol SmartMeter ban”

  1. Steveguy says:

    Get your 14 year old to hack the “Smart Meter” and pay only $10 a month !.

    If ya wanna fight them, at least get your money’s worth .

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  2. Joe Holtzman says:

    Please invite me to see the PG&E folks lead off to the jail for violating the city ordinance. That PERK walk with ankle and handcuff with be worth big money

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  3. Sonoma County Native says:

    No nukes, drugs, wi-fi, drive-thrus, or smart meters to name a few? Who knows what else will be banned. They should change their name to Moratoriumville!!!!

    Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7

  4. kelly says:

    Once again, the Sebastopol town countcil is letting itself get pushed around by a vocal minority.

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  5. Snarky says:


    Nobody is forcing the people to have smart meters.

    Those people can always opt NOT to purchase from PG&E. :)


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  6. Inside9 says:

    Almighty PG&E will need to comply with the law and I would suggest they not act like they are above it (though they have gotten away with tremendous damage without punishment).

    Does it make for good PR for a corporation to publicly “reject” local law.

    This is a corporation that is nourished by local dollars.

    Suppose I decided to reject other laws designed to protect public safety? I don’t think I would publicly state this.
    Its just bad form.

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  7. Juan Lock says:

    My favorite part about this whole process is how many anti-EMF folks communicate and organize via their computers. If you’re negatively affected by a smart meter and not your computer, the laws of physics would like to have a chat.

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  8. James Bennett says:

    Although the acceptance of UN Agenda 21/ICLEI and it’s manifestation in our community seems to have shifted greatly on this board (as it has everywhere) over the last year or two. It amazes me that folks still regard EMF/Smart Meter detriment as something contrived by people who wear ‘tin foil hats’. Since entire countries and people that wear white laboratory robes with capital letters after their names are included in the international recognition and acceptance of EMF damage, it might be time to find a description more credible and far reaching than the tired, juvenal tin foil hat line.

    What’s also very interesting to me is how thus far there has been little or no action on the fluoride stories on WSC today.

    See, Smart Meters, GMO, ‘geo-engineering’, damaging pharma, toxic vaccines and fluoride are all connected.

    But that’s a subject for another day (at this rate, another year or two). I’m leaving my business now to join many concerned citizens at the County Health Office this afternoon in objection to adding an industrial waste product/neurotoxin to our water table.

    I’m hosting a petition on The North Bay Independent.org, been on the groups e-mail loop, they talk like they have three digit IQs.

    I’ll let you know if I see any unusual head dress.

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  9. bear says:

    OK there may be many issues, but the first one should be the accuracy of the “Smartmeters?” Check it out.

    I see this as a money-grab and a job-killer.

    I have no problems with meter-readers. I’d rather pay them something than trust some high-tech scam.

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  10. The Hammer says:

    I don’t agree mostly with what goes on in Sebastopol, but, if they don’t want the meters then the meters shouldn’t be forced on them.

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  11. Steveguy says:

    Cut off their cell phone and internet service now ! They are in danger !

    Ban the PBS and NPR stations now ! Ohh, and don’t forget to ban remote garage door openers too ! Remote control for the TV ? $500 fine with a required ‘act correctly’ class that will teach you how to get up when the commercial is too loud. We desperately need to control this abuse of physics !

    Let’s not even get into the hidden dangers of wireless internet ! From theft to robbery to murder, the internet is far more harmful to the citizens of Sebastopol than something that supposed to ” Be Green”. Yes, the greenies and the greedies ganged up on us all again, how about that !

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  12. Reality Check says:

    Legally, of course, a city council has no authority over a state governed public utility. But we wouldn’t want that fact to get in the way of having fun Sebastopol style.

    I’m afraid I don’t get why charging a fee to have someone come out and read the meter is unfair. Does it not cost the utility something? But then neither do I get why people living in a sea of electromagnetic waves (“electrosmog,” cute) doesn’t first ban devices far stronger.

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  13. David says:

    The government should do a study on the long term effects of living in Sebastopol. Is it the water, the air or something else making the residents lose their minds?

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  14. Bill me says:

    Road blocks in and out of this nut zone. I don’t want unnecessary exposure to contact with these pinheads. And “GAJ-you forgot nuclear and drive thru free zone as well.

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  15. Pat says:

    Quack “science” rules in the Sebastopol Nuke Free zone

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  16. Pat says:

    Quack “science” rules in the Sebastopol Nuke Free zone.

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  17. Inside9 says:

    There is no need to expose people to an unecessary dose of “electrosmog” 24 hours a day. Negative effects show up everywhere in the literature.

    Those who are not aware of the possibility of injury or who feel threatened by another “limit to their freedoms” can go engage in some other high risk activity which will not hurt their neighbors.

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  18. David says:

    I am going to open up a booth on the street corner in Sebastopol selling tin foil hats! I bet I make a million!

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  19. GAJ says:

    Sebastopol need to become a WiFi/Cell Phone/TV remote/Microwave Oven/Bluetooth free zone.

    The easiest way to accomplish this is to shut down all electricity and communications.

    And ditch your electric hybrid cars; EMF’s don’t you know.

    Welcome to the Dark Ages Sebastopol.

    Thumb up 41 Thumb down 17

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