New Fees for Removal of Smart Meters Targeted

PG&E’s Smart Meter Opt Out is way too pricey.

A newly-approved state policy allows PG&E customers to refuse installation of Smart Meters, suspected of being a health hazard, on their properties or have them removed, if already installed, but to do that, an initial fee of $75 and a monthly charge of $10 would have to be paid, fees that anti-Smart Meter organizations are already working to have eliminated.

Statewide organized groups are already working to overturn a new state policy allowing PG&E customers to refuse to allow Smart Meters installed on their properties or, if already installed, to have them removed because most customers would have to pay a one-time fee of $75 plus a monthly charge of $10 to take advantage of the new policy.

They want the right to refuse both the installation of the Smart Meters, which many believe pose a severe health risk to people, or removal of them for free.

Meantime, the EMF (electromagnetic field) Safety Network organization is suggesting that customers deduct the fees from their PG&E bills in protest, if they wind up paying them. Customers who can qualify for a state low income program may be eligible to either refuse or have the Smart Meters removed for an initial fee of $10 and a monthly charge of $5.

EMF Safety Network, Stop Smart Meters and TURN (The Utility Reform Network) are three major organizations pushing for elimination of the fees. TURN is urging the public to sign a petition to urge the state Public Utilities Commission, which approved the new Smart Meters policy and fees on February 1, to revoke the fees.

The petition says in part: “I support TURN’s demands for an affordable opt-out, either allowing customers to read their own meters or some other method that gives customers a real choice. Customers have already been charged close to $5 billion for these unwanted and untrustworthy meters.”

The Stop Smart Meters group says that Smart Meters can “cause cancer, damage your DNA, harm wildlife, catch fire, and disable your shock prevention devices.” (Why Stop Smart Meters?)

The question of Smart Meters in California is still up in the air, despite the Public Utilities Commission action. So the protests about the fees could have an impact on whether the fees remain, if not on the future of Smart meters in the state. A Commission press release said: “The costs approved today are interim to allow residential customers to begin selecting the opt-out option immediately. The costs are subject to adjustment upon conclusion of a second phase of this proceeding where issues concerning the actual costs associated with offering an analog opt-out option will be addressed.” No date for conclusion of the second phase and presumably another Commission hearing on the matter was mentioned. But the EMF Safety Network said the second phase should be completed by sometime in May.

The San Francisco Chronicle interpreted the Commission’s action this way: “The commission will keep track of the opt-out program’s exact costs and may adjust the customer fees in the future as a result. The commission also plans to discuss whether entire communities can choose to opt out.”

Of course, those three major citizen organizations as well as numerous others still are demanding that Smart Meters be eliminated entirely from use by the public in California, and the new opt-out policy adopted by the Public Utilities Commission on February 1 could represent a significant step in that direction. But a major hurdle to getting rid of Smart Meters is the fact that the Commission itself approved their use by PG&E, which the Chronicle reported has installed nearly nine million of them with another 900,000 planned by the end of 2012. PG&E began installing them in 2006, the Chronicle said.

For more information, the EMF Safety Network can be accessed at EMF Safety Network, Stop Smart Meters and TURN. The EMF Safety Network and Stop Smart Meters in particular have valuable information on how to deal with Smart Meters and how to cope with the new state policy as far as either refusing to allow them to be installed or having them removed.