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Meter Moratorium Continues

news smartmeterBoard of Supervisors votes to continue opposition of SmartMeter installations

Late last year, the already loud local outcry over SmartMeters rang out even louder, as some residents took matters into their own hands and removed meters from their homes. The action led to Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) shutting off several of these residents’ power. Following a flood of public concern at its Dec. 13 meeting, the County Board of Supervisors directed the county’s public health officer, Poki Stewart Namkung, to return on Jan. 24 with an analysis of one month’s research on the health effects of the wireless meters.

The health officer’s report played a large part in the Board of Supervisor’s adoption of an ordinance to extend the temporary moratorium on the installation of SmartMeters at their Tuesday, Jan. 24 meeting.

While some supervisors had expressed concern in December over whether to continue what they called an unenforceable moratorium, the four board members present on Jan. 24 voted unanimously to continue the ban.

Supervisor Ellen Pirie says the health officer’s report, entitled “Health Risks Associated With SmartMeters,” which details the risks and potential public safety hazards of SmartMeters, solidified her vote to reinstate the moratorium.

“I think it’s the right decision by the Board of Supervisors,” she says. “And with the report from the public health officer saying that there could be health impacts from sustained exposure to SmartMeters, the board really needs to take this seriously.”

In her 37-page report, Namkung details both long and short-term health effects of the electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) that SmartMeters emit. Long-term effects include cancer and brain damage, and short-term effects include EMF hypersensitivity.

While Namkung’s report notes that there is no scientific literature on the health risks of SmartMeters in particular, as they are a new technology, she cites a large body of research on the health risks of EMFs in general.

The report’s conclusion poses the following: “The question for governmental agencies is that given the uncertainty of safety, the evidence of existing and potential harm, should we err on the side of safety and take the precautionary avoidance measures?”

While the report cites the ways in which SmartMeter exposure is similar to other forms of wireless radiation, such as cell phones and wireless Internet connections, her report’s conclusion also summarizes two unique features of SmartMeter exposure:

“[One] Universal exposure thus far because of mandatory installation ensuring that virtually every household is exposed; [Two] Involuntary exposure whether one has a SmartMeter on their home or not due to the already ubiquitous saturation of installation in Santa Cruz County.”

Jeff Nordahl, a concerned Santa Cruz resident and member of the organization StopSmartMeters!, finds Namkung’s report encouraging.

“It completely confirms every single health risk and potential health risk that all of us concerned citizens have been talking about for well over a year,” he says. “Now we have our top health official in Santa Cruz confirming these exact same health concerns after a month’s research on this topic.”

Nordahl thinks if people read the Santa Cruz health report, as well as a few of the scientific studies the report references, they will reach the same conclusion as the health officer.  

“Installing wireless SmartMeters on our homes, which saturate our neighborhoods with 24/7 pulsed radiation, is a very bad idea, which could lead to serious health repercussions for our community,” he says. “The SmartMeter program needs to be halted in our community immediately, and customers need to be able to opt out [of SmartMeter installations] for free.”

At their recent meeting, the Board of Supervisors also signed a petition addressed to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) asking them to delay consideration of PG&E president Michael Peevey’s preliminary decision to charge a fee to customers who elect to opt out of the SmartMeter program.

The petition urges the CPUC to wait “until further public hearings are completed to ensure the due process rights of all stakeholders.”

Unlike previous Board of Supervisors meetings on the topic, no one spoke out directly against reinstating the moratorium against SmartMeter installations. Instead, the tone of both supervisors and attendees was supportive.

“There was lots of discussion, and lots of people talking and we’ll see where we go,” says Pirie. She adds that the next step is for the Board of Supervisors to put pressure on the CPUC.

“[The Board of Supervisors should] ask the CPUC, which is really the entity that gets to make most of these decisions, to take another look at this and consider that there may be either people who are unusually sensitive to electromagnetic radiation or people getting an unusual amount of exposure,” she says.

Photo: Jesse Clark

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