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San Anselmo votes to ban smart meters in town

Council reconsiders issue and reverses position.

In a surprising turn of events, the San Anselmo Town Council voted last night to "demand" a moratorium on the installation of PG&E's Smart Meters in town. The town also voted to begin drafting an ordinance that would place a temporary moratorium on the meters for one year.

The last time the council considered the wireless electric and gas metering devices, the results were slightly different. .

The council was criticized at that time for only having a speaker from PG&E and no opposing viewpoints. The scheduled speaker for the opposing side had a conflict at that time.

"I'm really struck by the difference between this meeting and the meeting we had where it was only PG&E. We really need to have these things together," said council member Jeff Kroot. Kroot then laughed about the length of the meeting last night and said, "Well, not again."

In July, Kroot was the only member who voiced a desire to request a moratorium on the meters. The council's decision, then, was in stark contrast to the rash of calls coming from local towns, including Fairfax, for a moratorium on the meters. Fairfax also drafted a moratorium banning the meters and PG&E voluntarily agreed to place a moratorium on the installation of the meters in Fairfax until more community outreach could be completed.

The first of PG&E's community outreach meetings will take place tonight at 7 p.m. at the Women's Club in Fairfax.

Read about the basic facts behind the Smart Meter debate here.

The wireless meters use a mesh network made up of cellular networks and radio frequencies to transmit an individual's or business' usage data back to PG&E. Read about how the meters work here.

Last night, the San Anselmo Town Council decided to reconsider the issue and hear opposing viewpoints, including a presentation from Mary Beth Brangan – who produced the documentary Public Exposure: the Wireless Revolution and Your Health – and from Fairfax Council Member Larry Bragman.

"We think PG&E has a poorly thought out plan here," said Brangan. "It's one of the largest technological roll-outs in history, yet no environmental report was done.

Brangan talked at length about the health impacts from radio and electro-magnetic frequencies. Sensitivity to such frequencies is considered a disability in Sweden, she said, and can be considered a disability under the ADA in the U.S. Between 3 and 10 percent of people experience severe sensitivity, she said, becoming ill or having difficulty going about regular activities.

Bragnan also said the meters hadn't been tested for FCC requirements in real-life situations, but merely in isolation. In addition, FCC requirements only measure the amount of heat created by the meters.

Bragman discussed the privacy and security concerns he has about the meters.

"While the technical aspects may be pretty impressive," said Bragman about the PG&E meters, "what is not so impressive is the complete lack of an architecture of democracy."

He argued that the huge amounts of data created from the meters would not be private and could be subject to subpoena by law enforcement, use by the utility, or hacked into by criminals.

Around a dozen residents of San Anselmo and Fairfax spoke against the meters, urging the council to follow in Fairfax's footsteps.

Fairfax resident and realtor Diane Hoffman said that clients have been looking at houses in Fairfax because "it might be their last chance" to avoid the PG&E Smart Meters.

The San Anselmo Council that considered the issue last night looked very different than the one that considered it in July. Greene was present last night, but council member Tom McInerney – who had cautioned restraint previously – was absent. Additionally, council member Kay Coleman recused herself this time, but not last time, because her husband does work with PG&E.

Greene led the charge against the meters and, as the meeting went into the night, he had some choice words for the utility.

"I was thinking during all the presentations about what Smart may really stand for? Sneaky Method Aimed at Reaming Taxpayers," he said to applause, then made another sexual joke about PG&E.

Greene proposed to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission requesting a moratorium on the installation of the meters until these issues are resolved and to send a letter to PG&E "demanding" a moratorium in town. Greene also proposed to support the petition from San Francisco requesting a moratorium. And, he asked for staff to come back with an ordinance, similar to Fairfax's, banning the meters in town for one year.

Both Kroot and Mayor Barbara Thornton voted to support the proposal.

Bob Loblaw September 23, 2010 at 03:47 PM
S.M.A.R.T. = Smart Meters Are Real Trouble
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara September 23, 2010 at 06:44 PM
That's a little more PC than Greene's version.

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