The CPUC, which seems bloated with industry insiders, voted on February 1, 2012, to approve a proposal which will allow PG&E customers in California (see note*) who want analog meters to pay a $75 dollar upfront “install” fee (which you will be charged even if your analog is already installed) and an ongoing ten dollar monthly fee –this despite almost two hours of public comments from over 60 speakers who spoke against the fees as a form of extortion. (The analog option does not help those who live above, as was the case for one speaker, a bank of 42 meters; or those still made sick by their neighbors’ nearby smart meters.) As one speaker said “We should be a smart meter free state.”
“Some people may never be satisfied,” Commissioner Ferron later said. This may especially be the case when they realize the CPUC has given their utility company authority to charge them a bundle of new fees to keep what they already had (analogs) in the first place.
President Peevey used his time at the podium to talk about how the White House had sent a “technology emissary,” Aneesh Chopra, to California just a few days prior; and to promote the benefits of “smart” meters” to “empower consumers.”
Virtually every speaker in the room (other than the commissioners) spoke against “Smart” meters, and even people who came to talk about other matters put in a word against “smart” meters. The absence of any pro smart meter speakers seemed to concern Commissioner Simon as he later used some of his podium time to urge “beneficiaries” of the wireless technology to speak up, complaining that the argument has been “one-sided.”
Although those of us on the delay list are grateful that we will not have to steel ourselves to either accept a carcinogen on our own property or be threatened with jail or power shut off if we don’t, there are still many issues with the ruling (particularly for those living near multiple meters) which will leave “some people” not only dissatisfied, but unable to benefit from it. As one speaker pointed out, people with health conditions are often on disability and can’t afford to pay other people’s opt out. Their neighbors may even be too poor to pay their own. Even for those with more resources, it could cost thousands of dollars to opt out.
Some of this dissatisfaction that Commissioner Ferron was referring to spilled over after the vote when people were leaving. Some speakers cried “shame” and broke into a group chant: We Say No Fee. Charge the Utility! One woman—in grey pants, with a long green scarf knotted over a black sweater and long blonde hair—who earlier had told about her neighbor’s baby who had leukemia and how the mother had been exposed to smart meter radiation during her pregnancy—walked to the front of the room and looked up at the commissioners.
“I’m an advocate for my cancer smart meter baby. She is crying to you. This is a crime against humanity. This is a crime against humanity.”
“She’s right!” someone yelled.
“Let’s go.” Peevey said in his brusque voice
“You should be ashamed of yourself. Crime against humanity!”
“Could we have a little security here, please?” Peevey called out as she walked away, joining the crowd massed against the open doorway, slowly shuffling out.
The camera fixed on Peevey sitting at the podium (brown suit, black curtains behind his chair)—as he and the other commissioners waited for the smart meter people to leave. Another voice, female, could be heard “I’m going to have to leave my house. I’ll have to leave America because of you guys. Thank you. I’ve been sick for two years cause of you guys. I’ve explained it from every single angle and you guys still don’t get it.” The words floated like some fly around Peevey’s white haired pink faced head.
Commissioner Simon said something (which the audio did not pick up); and the three commissioners at the table (Peevey, Simon and Sandoval) burst into laughter. Somebody later turned off the mike. Then when the last of the smart meter speakers had finally made it through the doorway, the mike was turned back on.
“Close the doors!” Peevey said.
“I’m pleased,” Peevey now said, addressing the audience, “to bring this next item before you today. . . “
**Note: The ruling is officially only for PG&E customers. We have been told by the CPUC public advisor that what goes for PG&E will also go for SCE and SDG&E.