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Supes Extend SmartMeter Moratorium for Another Year

In a brief hearing, board unanimously continues a ban on the installation of PG&E's wireless meters in unincorporated Marin.

The Marin County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to extend its moratorium on the installation of Pacific Gas & Electric's SmartMeters in unincorporated Marin for another year, continuing a ban first imposed in January 2011.

While the approval of that first moratorium drew a raucous ovation from a packed house of vocal critics of the wireless meters, the board's extension of it Tuesday was brief and largely uneventful.

Supervisor Steve Kinsey opened the discussion by noting that the California Public Utilities Commission has yet to institute "any opt-out provisions" or weigh in on whether or not PG&E is allowed to charge fees to customers who choose to opt-out.

"Even though I consider this to be a relatively straightforward procedure," Kinsey said of the moratorium extension, "it's still important to elevate our board's ongoing commitment to the community members that have concerns about SmartMeters. This is our way of prodding the PUC to finish the unfinished business. Individuals should be able to control our own destinies in our own homes."

Kinsey's comment was followed by comments from nine local residents who thanked the board for their continued action and spelled out their own concerns about SmartMeters.

The wireless digital meters came under fire in recent years because of concerns about accuracy, security, privacy and health effects. The meters use a combination of radio and electromagnetic signals to transmit data from the digital meter attached to your house to a transponder on a nearby telephone pole. That data is then transmitted via a cellular mesh network back to PG&E. Read about how the wireless meters work here.

A January 2011 California Council on Science and Technology report revealed the radiation from the meters is dwarfed by the radiation from items such as cellphones and microwave ovens, and that the actual radiation falls well within Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

The new technology wirelessly transmits gas- and electricity-consumption data to PG&E, eliminating the need for so-called "meter reader" employees and providing customers with information about how much power they are consuming.

The issue became charged here in Marin, with two women getting arrested in February 2011 when they tried to block the truck of a PG&E contractor attempting to install the SmartMeters in Inverness.

The enforceability of a SmartMeter ban is open for debate, as local governments have no regulatory power over the smart-grid technology of utilities like PG&E, and the body that does have that power, the CPUC, has already given them the green light.

A moratorium similar to the county's was passed by the Fairfax Town Council in August 2010. It essentially moved Fairfax, along with unincorporated Marin, to the bottom of PG&E's list of Smart Meter installations in Marin.

But that was two years ago, and PG&E officials claim that individual customer opt-outs have been minimal. In May 2012, PG&E reported to the PUC that "substantially less than 1 percent of PG&E's residential customers" have declined the technology.

In February, the CPUC approved a plan to allow opt-outs in February 2012, but has yet to yet to issue a system by which non-individuals, such as entire communities, can opt out. The panel has also yet to formally approve PG&E's plan to charge customers a $75 initial setup charge and a $10 monthly charge to use an analog meter. Those who qualify for low-income rates will pay a $10 setup charge and $5 a month.

PG&E customers can request to opt out of the SmartMeter program online at pge.com/smartmeteroptout or by calling 866-743-0263.

Walter McClellan February 01, 2013 at 12:43 AM
Why is the Patch ignoring the biggest story in the Twin Cities? There hasn't been even a mention in the Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch about the huge turnouts at recent public meetings on the massive Highway 101 Greenbrae/Twin Cities Corridor freeway project proposed by CalTrans and Transportation Authority of Marin through our small communities. Opposition to the project, which will divide our small towns with 16 lanes of traffic at a new freeway interchange at Wornum Drive, has been loud and clear, with opponents outnumbering supporters by a margin of 99 to 1. There's a grassroots-sponsored website at www.MarinDeservesBetter.org and a Facebook page at Marin Deserves Better. It's about time for the Patch to wake up and take notice. Walter McClellan (I submitted this comment through the link on the Larkspur-Corte Madera Patch website, but it bounced back with the following message: ----- The following addresses had permanent fatal errors ----- <larkspur@patch.com> (reason: 550-5.1.1 The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.)
Craig Belfor February 03, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Hey Walt, the reason is -is that's not what this story is about. It's about people with tin foil hats texting their opposition to progress. If they don't like PGE reading their thoughts, then they need to jump on their treadmills and generate their own electicity.

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