READER'S EDITORIAL: WHY SMART METER OPT-OUTS SHOULD BE FREE

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By Susan Brinchman 

June 15, 2012 (La Mesa)--It has been one month since the opt-out officially began for SDG&E customers. The beginning appeared "rocky", with misinformation and long waits on the phone reported by customers wishing to opt-out. People who decry smart meters are understandably upset with the costs, and this has led to many not wishing to opt-out. Those who don't know why an opt-out might be desirable become very disinterested when they hear of the costs. It is important to know that an email has surfaced (through FOIA submitted by another party) from the CPUC to CA utility contacts that suggested fixing a penalty-type fee for opting out, in order to discourage people from opting out. PG&E reportedly conducted surveys to determine how many might opt-out if there was such a fee, at varying amounts. If free, 40% would opt-out.
 
We do not have any numbers yet on how many SDG&E customers have opted out, though this info may be obtained shortly in the course of the upcoming CPUC opt-out proceedings or through media inquiry. I encourage you to call and ask. Informal inquiries would put the numbers in the many hundreds at the very least, and possibly in the thousands. The problem is that people don't know that there is an opt-out, as SDG&E has not informed all customers, and the costs are prohibitive and outrageous, many feel. Lastly, most people don't understand why an opt-out might be desirable, as there has not been any explanation from the company, and very little from local major media.
 
Vermont's state legislature just passed a law in the past month that allow all Vermont citizens to opt-out of smart meters for free (no cost, no fees). The state legislature circumvented the VT PUC, which was planning to charge fees. The wording of that bill and more about it is located at
 
Meanwhile, on a personal note, I have opted out and pay my opt-out fees in a separate check, notated "paid under duress". Both gas and electric smart meters have been removed. One neighbor, next door, also opted out. The rest haven't, but some are thinking about it. I have noticed improvements in being able to sleep better, less ringing in the ears, and reduction in headaches. I am able to be near the new analog meters outside without feeling ill. Inside, I am still unable to use the bedroom, though I can be in it (I still get much milder symptoms there, such as headache and tingling of scalp, as before, but far less) and testing is ongoing to determine why. One thing that has been measured is elevated "dirty electricity" (low frequency RF radiation) in that room, from an outside source (the wiring outside). Measurements of the RF surrounding the new meters have been somewhat inconclusive, but I can say that it appears no communications device is present, though one can be added "in the field" to the Elster meters, per the technical manual. I am still working on investigating this situation.
 
SDG&E, in an email received May 29th, said, "In response to your recently sent letter, the electric meter set at your premise is an Elster AB1 analog Form 2S meter. This is the same analog meter type that was used for the majority of our residential meter population for many years.  The meter installed at your premise is an analog meter without any kind of communication device or solid state electronics." The smart grid mesh network is still definitely present, which means exposure to second-hand RF radiation from neighboring smart meters and wireless infrastructure. SDG&E has not come out to check on the RF and dirty electricity I am measuring, though asked to do so. People have contacted me to measure their analogs. What I can say is that if they have a GE I70 or ABB electromechanical meter, these show no possibility of having a communications device, per my research. The Elster brands could, but you could see it, as I understand now, it would be a large white device in the lower portion, easily visible through the glass, with a black antenna along the right hand side. When I look through mine, all I see are electromechanical gears. I cannot measure the RF for people, there are many factors (and too many people to do this for), and my equipment is not sufficient. I also do not recommend hiring anyone to measure without a thorough licensing and background check, BTW.
 
The Center for Electrosmog Prevention (CEP) is continuing to participate in the second phase of the CPUC opt-out proceedings which consider costs (fees, rates), and whether entire communities (like towns, cities, counties) or multi-family units (like apts, condos, etc) can opt-out as a whole. We are represented by an attorney and will continue to file comments and other advisements, and attend meetings, workshops, and hearings. There will be public participation meetings in four places (TBD) in CA re: these issues. We have demanded that health be considered and this has, thus far, been denied by the CPUC (see the transcript at http://www.electrosmogprevention.org/stop-ca-smart-meter-news/cpuc-holds-opt-out-prehearing-conference-51612/. We feel that legal suits and legislative action will likely be necessary to move the issue along, as the CPUC is clearly on the side of the utilities and appears to be doing everything possible to delay and not address the public health emergency related to smart meters that physicians, scientists, and health experts are directly warning about. This is not a surprise, given that the head CPUC commissioner, Michael Peevey, is a former Edison Vice President, and that many key CPUC staff and judges previously worked for the utilities. In Kaua'i, very recently, a federal lawsuit was settled re: smart meter opt-outs such that the utility, a co-op, agreed not to install smart meters without the owners' permission, and that it would be free - thus, only as an opt-in.  
 
So yes, it is good that there is an opt-out, as a first step. That is progress of sorts - for those who know enough and can afford it. Making all opt-outs free, with free opt-outs for entire communities and multi-family housing is needed as a next step. A ban is needed, ultimately, as second-hand radiation from neighboring meters and wireless infrastructure is a very real problem for all of us, whether we can feel it or not (and is making some unable to occupy their homes here in SD County). For instance, within our county, I communicate with a current UCSD professor who is homeless (living in a truck on the streets for five months) due to the smart meters and second-hand radiation, a retired dentist who is suffering vision loss and severe health issues trying to live in her home where there are 7 meters close by, aimed at her home (she cries over this when we speak), and a single mother who is trying to raise enough money to pay (herself) for the opt-outs for 7 of her neighbors, living in an apt. complex, where the bank of 8 smart meters is close to her apartment, impacting her young daughter's health. It is appalling that we have come to this, in America, where a corporation and the state government can collude to produce unhealthful conditions where people must pay to try to stay well and that isn't even sufficient.
 
We must do more to remove and ban all smart meters and wireless infrastructure, and outside the CPUC, which has shown itself to be all too cozy with industry.
 
 
We are one of 20 organizations in California working on the smart meter problems. CEP is one of about a dozen organizations in CA participating in the legal proceedings at the CPUC, one of four in Southern California, and has filed 20 legal documents in the past year on this issue. We are still all-volunteer and appreciate any help you or other concerned citizens may provide, to cover costs. We are seeking sponsors and pro bono legal support so we can do more.
 
Susan Brinchman is the Director and Founder, Center for Electrosmog Prevention in La Mesa, director@electrosmogprevention.orgwww.electrosmogprevention.org .
For more information also visit: Smart Meter Dangers 
Southern Californians Against Smart Meters 
American Coalition Against Smart Meters www.causes.com/acasm 
No2SmartMeters@Twitter.com 
Please donate at www.electrosmogprevention.org   
 
The views expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact editor@eastcountymagazine.org