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Sebastopol, PG&E face off over SmartMeters again


The city of Sebastopol’s uneasy stalemate with PG&E over the installation of SmartMeters faces another test today when the two sides meet again.

The utility company is mostly honoring the city’s moratorium on installing the controversial devices as the two sides prepare for their second informal meeting in as many weeks.

How long the company plans to hold off is a key point of contention that threatens to unravel the current detente.

Tensions escalated two weeks ago when police responded to a 911 caller who reported that a PG&E worker was installing a SmartMeter in violation of the city’s ban. The worker left without being issued a citation.

Smartmeter 3:2PG&E responded by ceasing all operations in the city and requesting a meeting with city officials. The company has since resumed normal operations in the city, save for installing SmartMeters for residential customers.

City officials have requested that such installations be put on hold until state power authorities rule on the scope of opt-out programs for the devices. The city’s moratorium, enacted Feb. 21 by a unanimous vote of the City Council, is specifically tied to the outcome of those hearings.

A spokesman for the California Public Utilities Commission, which is conducting the hearings, said Wednesday that it could be some time in the fall before a final decision is rendered.

At issue is whether PG&E customers have to pay to opt out of the SmartMeter program and whether entire communities can impose a ban on the devices.

Brittany McKannay, a PG&E spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the company cannot indefinitely hold off installing more SmartMeters for residential customers in Sebastopol until the state resolves the issues.

She said such installations will resume in Sebastopol once PG&E has a new communication plan for customers, including better conveying the “benefits” of SmartMeters and how residents can opt out of the program.

She said the company requested today’s meeting with city officials to discuss that communication plan.

“Every time we come together, we come up with better ways to do this work,” she said.

Under the city’s ordinance, however, such work potentially carries penalties of up to $500 for each violation.

Asked Wednesday whether Sebastopol would reinstate enforcement of its ban on SmartMeters if PG&E presses forward of its own volition, Mayor Michael Kyes replied, “We’ll certainly discuss it.”

For now, the city is ignoring the fact that PG&E is violating the moratorium by continuing to install SmartMeters for business customers, including at the $23.5 million Barlow project, the city’s largest development project in years.

The city’s ordinance applies to “homes, apartments, condominiums, and businesses.” But Kyes said the “basic intent” of the measure was to prevent PG&E from installing residential meters.

Larry McLaughlin, Sebastopol’s city manager and attorney, ordered enforcement of the moratorium be suspended after an attorney for the California Public Utilities Commission warned McLaughlin in a March 1 letter that the city’s ban is “unlawful and unenforceable.”

McLaughlin said he had the authority to direct Police Department resources elsewhere in his capacity as the city’s top administrator.

He hastily added a closed-session agenda item to the City Council’s March 5 meeting to discuss the CPUC letter and the possible threat of litigation. That discussion was continued to today, and then later canceled when PG&E asked to meet the same day.

Today’s meeting is scheduled to take place at the city’s Police Department and will include McLaughlin and Police Chief Jeff Weaver.

McLaughlin said the City Council is planning to hold another closed-door session at its meeting Tuesday to discuss two cases of possible litigation. He declined to state whether cases involve SmartMeters.

He said any proposal to amend or repeal the city’s moratorium likely would require a public hearing.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or derek.moore@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @deadlinederek.

6 Responses to “Sebastopol, PG&E face off over SmartMeters again”

  1. James Bennett says:

    PG&E is a Public Private Partner in your oppression.

    You will all know this one day.

    Then you can post under another name and act like you knew it all along.

    Frequencies can be used for many things.

    But, for now many can just reside in your narrow understanding of what Smart Meters and cell phone towers really mean to your health. Especially when they are manipulated to globalist ends.

    Afterall, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, right?

    This chapter will represent quite the…
    ‘reality check’.

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  2. Inside9 says:

    Lots of locals threatened by the fact that people are saying they are getting sick from SmartMeters installed all around us. We should be scared but let’s not take our anger out on them.

    I got angry when I watched the Newshour on PBS this week and saw that PG&E has done little to make Hinkley, CA, the place they poisoned years ago, liveable. The famous movie “Erin Brockovich” described the devastation. PG&E was ordered by the courts to clean it up. They say they will some day – estimates are it will take 40 more years.

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  3. The Answer says:

    If PG&E pulled the plug on the great citizens of progressive Sebastopol, I don’t think most of the residents would recognize the difference. It is the land of hazy smoke, love candles and navel gazing.

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  4. Grapevines says:

    The “tin-foil hat” crown getting stroked by the city council. I vote to have PG&E pull the plug and let them use candles.

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  5. John Pendergast says:

    If we look at the big picture here this all makes sense. There’s a big industry in Sebastopol that depends on power consumption and discretion.

    A “smart meter” is something that may be used in the future to track certain consumption patterns. It’s really a defense of many livelihoods in that town, and I don’t blame the people who live there for attempting to do that.

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  6. Reality Check says:

    Now is that smart or what, Sebastopol isn’t going to enforce an ordinance it knows to be illegal and unenforceable.

    Unfortunately, PG&E has to play Patty cake with these childlike adults. In the end, Smart meters will be installed, but at an additional cost that will get passed on to all ratepayers.

    In the U.S. there are 38 million so-called Smart meters installed, including 8 million by co-op and municipal-owned utilities. Life elsewhere goes on, but not in a land known as Sebastopol.

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