La Mesa smart meter opponent voices outrage over families left in the cold
By Miriam Raftery
December 14, 2011 (La Mesa)—“We have just learned of a very troubling situation,” Susan Brinchman, a La Mesa activist leading statewide efforts to oppose smart meters, has informed ECM. “Power has been cut off for three families who changed out the smart meters on their homes for analogs.”
The shut-offs were made by Pacific Gas & Electric Company in Santa Cruz. Like a growing number of Californians, the families left in the dark had complained of health problems that they believed were caused by smart meters installed on their residences. Now, Brinchman fears that the same thing could happen in San Diego County.
She has sought unsuccessfully to persuade San Diego Gas & Electric to remove a smart meter from her home even though her doctor confirmed in writing that he believes her serious health problems are caused by radiation from the smart meter.
“This is serious business,” she said, adding that a lawyer is sought to help families being victimized. “Customers have the choice or death or injury OR electrical shutoff and meter tampering charges. Clearly, this is not to be tolerated in America and must be challenged legally.”
The Santa Cruz Sentinel confirms that Monise Sheehan, Peggy Lindsey, and Bianca Carn all had PG&E pull the plug on their power after they hired an electrician to remove their smart meters. All had asked PG&E to remove the meters first, but the utility refused. Those left in the dark include a family with young children and an elderly woman in her 70s.
The website www.stopsmartmeters.org reports a fourth person has also had power shut off by PG&E. The site suggests that utility companies are frightened of the prospect of a large-scale public backlash against smart meters and promptly dubbed PG&E “Pacific Grinch and Ebeneezer”, adding, “Although PG&E has a policy of not disconnecting anyone during the holidays, they made a special exception for these families. Apparently PG&E feels it is more appropriate to force people to shiver in the cold and stumble around in the dark than simply replace an analog meter on their home (which of course they have millions of).”
PG&E has claimed it had no analog meters left, but refused to allow the switch-out even for customers who purchased analog meters elsewhere. Utilities including SDG&E have claimed that the wireless meters are safe and do not cause health problems. Opponents of the meters cite reports suggesting the radiation levels associated with smart meters can potentially cause harm to health. Hundreds of complaints submitted to the CPUC allege health problems ranging from heart palpitations to headaches to tinnitus (ringing of the ears) after smart meters were installed.
In San Diego, SDG&E continues to refuse to remove smart meters from ratepayers’ homes—in Brinchman’s case, even after she offered to pay for the cost.
Dennis Richardson of Lakeside is among those who has asked SDG&E and the CPUC to remove a smart meter removed from his Lakeside residence for a variety of reasons. He expressed frustration and anger upon hearing of the Santa Cruz shut-offs.
"Should we expect any less from an energy supplier?" he asked. A Michigan man recently froze to death in his home after power was shut off. He also alluded to Enron energy traders caught on tape joking about stealing from grandmothers.
Richardson views the dispute as a property rights issue. "I think people have the right to protect themselves against things that can do harm, and especially on their own property."
Consumers seeking help from the California Public Utilities Commission have thus far found little help despite a flood of complaints. The CPUC did allow homeowners who don’t yet have smart meters to add their names to an opt-out list, but has thus far done nothing for customers who already had the wireless meters installed.
But PG&E has threatened to next shut off power to homeowners who never had smart meters but refuse to allow one to be installed. “For customers who continue to refuse to allow access to the meter, PG&E will have no choice but to temporarily discontinue service in accordance with existing Rules,” a recent court filing revealed.
So what’s a homeowner to do?
Currently, there are no cheap or easy options.
Stop Smart Meters suggests that homeowners lock up existing analog meters in a cage or behind locked gates, then “begin to make plans to live off the grid, or generate power locally with your neighbors.”
For those who already have a smart meter and choose to remove it, the organization offers this advice. “Since the utility is calling the police when people try to return their equipment to their offices, why not leave it with your elected officials—they have allowed this situation to happen—they can deal with the mess they’ve created. And don’t forget to call the media.”
Richardson suggested this means of protest. "It is tie for those who don't have solar power to turn off the main power breaker at the meter while they are away from the house. should save a bundle of wasted money and send SDG&E a message."
In Santa Cruz, meanwhile, County Supervisor Ellen Pirie expressed incredulity over the utility’s actions. Another Supervisor, John Leopold, likened PG&E to Scrooge, The Santa Cruz Democrat newspaper reported.
“We’re having a Dickensian moment here,” he said, urging the utility to “get in the spirit of the holidays.”
Despite grilling by the County Supervisors, however, PG&E remained adament about keeping its customers in the dark this holiday season. View a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yIGqz_2uGTs&feature=youtu.be.
Wendy Sarsfield, a PG&E governmental relations official, claimed that “tampering with a PG&E meter by anyone who is not a PG&E trained professional creates a real urgent public safety issue.”
For more information on efforts to oppose smart meters, visit Brinchman’s site, www.electrosmogprevention.org, as well as www.smartmeterdangers.org and the American Coalition Against Smart Meters at www.causes.com/acasm. You may also follow No2SmartMeters@Twitter.com.