State Ratepayer Advocate Says Public Utilities Commission Should Address Smart Meter Concerns 1

The California Public Utilities Commission’s own Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) has recommended that the CPUC publicly evaluate the possibility that smart meters radiofrequency emissions could cause interference or health effects.

The recommendation comes after strenuous opposition in Bay Area communities. The DRA’s point is that the CPUC must address consumer concerns.

This DRA filing on Californians for Renewable Energy’s petition to the CPUC states:

CARE claims that PG&E’s SmartMeters:
1) cause “harmful interference”
2) contributed to the recent San Bruno gas line explosion;and
3) produce radiation which is harmful to humans.

…Although CARE’s Application is not well supported, DRA recommends that the Commission gather data related to the radio frequency (RF) issues (interference and health effects of radiation). The Commission should review this data before additional action is considered, in a public proceeding, with the participation of consumer advocates and other interested stakeholders.

…DRA recommends immediate Commission action to address concerns about RF interference and possible adverse impacts on health and safety. Such concerns have been raised in filings by local governments, and consumers, and by numerous individual customers in person at Commission public business meetings. This level of public concern warrants action by the Commission to determine if these concerns are well founded, regardless of CARE’s Application.

…There is clearly a high level of public concern over possible adverse safety and health impacts of the Smart Meter system. The Commission has an obligation to investigate whether these concerns are well founded, in a public proceeding. Such a proceeding could include an en banc hearing in which the Commission gathers information from qualified experts, as the Commission has done, for example, in investigating “cramming.” To the extent that the Commission finds, based on information that is publicly and properly vetted, that the public’s concerns are misplaced, the Commission’s actions and explanations should reassure the public. If the Commission finds that there are health or safety problems that need to be addressed, it can (and must) proceed to finding solutions.

2. Recommendations
a) PG&E should be ordered to quantify Smart Meter RF emissions and customer exposure levels. Determination of a causal relationship between Smart Meters and customer health requires a three-step process analogous to establishing air quality impacts:
• calculate source emission levels,
• model exposure or emissions concentrations at specific locations adjacent to the source; and
• compare modeled exposure to relevant standards.

In the case of RF health impacts, the final step is the most likely to produce results that will be controversial, due to the fact that existing standards can be criticized because of the inconclusive nature of the multitude of studies which could be cited.

Another report on the letter appears on Stop Smart Meters. In Maine, consumers are also voicing concerns about Smart Meters and picking up on the fact stressed by California utility customers that public health and other impacts of these devices haven’t been assessed.

In a response to EMF Safety Network’s filing against Smart Meter installations, PG&E says the CPUC has no authority to preempt radiofrequency emission guidelines set by the FCC:

It is abundantly clear that Network hopes to convince the CPUC to second guess the FCC regarding RF standards and to further convince the CPUC to take various actions because of Network’s RF emission concerns. However, as discussed in PG&E’s motion, the CPUC does not have the power to act in the manner Network suggests because this subject matter has been broadly preempted by the FCC. (See D.06-04-070). For this reason there is no purpose served by proceeding with Network’s Application and it should be dismissed.

Local assembly representatives Jared Huffman and Bill Monning are asking for a health impacts investigation to be conducted by the California Council for Science and Technology.

Events such as this talk by KPFA radio commentators Layna Berman and Dr. Jeffry Fawcett of have heightened public concerns about smart meters.

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