Judge Amy Yip-Kikugawa listens to testimony from Bryan Rosen about smart meters (Dec. 14, 2012)

Paul Wellman

Judge Amy Yip-Kikugawa listens to testimony from Bryan Rosen about smart meters (Dec. 14, 2012)

Smart Meters Still Riling S.B. Residents

Judge Hears Complaints, Considers Changes to Opt-Out Fees

Originally published 2:00 p.m., December 17, 2012
Updated 4:00 p.m., December 17, 2012
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

Administrative Law Judge Amy C. Yip-Kikugawa presided over a public hearing Friday where an angry crowd voiced its opposition to the installation of smart meters throughout Santa Barbara County. The hearing was part of a Southern California tour in which the judge will hear public comments, consider them, and eventually draft a proposal to potentially change the current opt-out fee structure. The proposal will then be voted on by the California Public Utilities Commission.

Yip-Kikugawa recently made a ruling that requires utility companies to provide an option for energy customers to opt out of smart meter installation. Currently, PG&E and Southern California Edison charge a onetime $75 fee and a $10 monthly fee for those who choose to keep their old energy meters. Dozens of customers and consumer advocates took to the podium Friday in a county administration building hearing room to voice their concern over the fees, the alleged health risks associated with smart meters, and a litany of other issues with the devices.

Former assemblymember Pedro Nava — a member of the Consumer Power Alliance advocacy group that has led the charge against smart meters — addressed the judge and the lively crowd. “It’s very clear that the overwhelming majority of people here believe that they should not have to pay anybody for something they don’t want,” he said. Nava also noted the original legislation that called for the new meters said they should be tested to make sure they were cost effective, had strong cyber security, and didn’t compromise customer safety. Nava contended that these issues had not been adequately reviewed before installation began.

“The opt-out fee is extortion,” said Barrett Sten. He added that if the companies wanted to save the cost of hiring employees to read traditional energy meters, they should pass the responsibility on to customers. “It’s very easy to read the meters,” he said. “I can do it myself.”

“The month-by-month fee is a huge slush fund of money that is beyond the operational costs of the company,” said Judith Fishkanian, who complained that the fees were not used to pay for any actual services.

First District County Supervisor Salud Carbajal reminded everyone that “The supervisors were on record asking for a no cost opt-out option.” Indeed, last year the supervisors voted unanimously for a free opt-out service. Carbajal’s words got the loudest applause of the afternoon.

Many speakers also addressed the supposed health risks associated with the radiation that the wireless smart meters emit. Susan Romanyk claimed that she experienced heart palpitations when a smart meter was installed at her home. When she opted out, the palpitations stopped, but now, she said, “I am paying for my own and my two neighbors’ opt-out fees because when [smart meters] were installed in my neighbors’ homes, the palpitations came back.” Several other speakers complained of heart palpitations and severe headaches that started when their new meters were installed.

As many speakers mentioned, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has said that radio waves from smart meters can cause “significant harmful biological effects.” However, very little definitive research has been done on the subject, and it is difficult to isolate the effects of smart meter radiation when so many household electronics also emit radiation. For now, claims that smart meters have caused health problem are highly speculative. However, as Susan Stewart pointed out, “This could have all been avoided by using wired technology.”

Privacy issues were also raised at the hearing. The smart meter gives utility companies the ability to see exactly how much energy is being used by any home at any time. Many people agreed that this was an invasion of privacy.

Others raised the issue of cyber security. “Smart meters allow companies to turn off your power at any time,” one man said. “This could be the work of a rogue employee, a hacker, or a software error. … I want to see that capability taken away.”

Another woman complained that her appliances were being short-circuited and destroyed because of the smart meters. And that her computer, Internet, and printer no longer worked properly.

One man complained that utility company employees were harassing him, continually coming to his house to change his meter even though he had opted out. He asked Judge Yip-Kikugawa, “ In your legal opinion, if they come on my property again, can I shoot them?”

Overall, the hearing attracted a politically diverse group of people, all of whom were fully opposed to smart meters. They ranged from an environmentalist who asked, “Why are we polluting our air with this radiation?” to George Miller, head of the Ventura County Tea Party Action Alliance, who opined, “The so-called sustainability movement is really what is at fault for this problem.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

"The smart meter gives utility companies the ability to see exactly what appliances and electronics are being used in any home at any time."

That is an incorrect and quite frankly, absurd, assertion made by this article. I hope the Indy corrects it.

Smart meters being installed in SB have absolutely no way of identifying which devices are turned on in your house.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 2:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EastBeach, Agreed. This upstream meter should only be able to measure total voltage and amperage to the property, right? Unless electricity has somehow changed since my last electronics class i'm calling BS.

cmetzenberg (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 3:16 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Really, editor-less Indy:
"The smart meter gives utility companies the ability to see exactly what appliances and electronics are being used in any home at any time. Many people agreed that this was an invasion of privacy."

So the 900 Watts drawn by my toaster register different data from the 1000 Watts consumed by my coffeebrewer?

Errors like that make readers doubt everything in the article.
Editing, please.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 3:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We should have more opportunities to get the tinfoil hat crowd all in one place to rant and rave. It will keep them off the internet for a while. How many of these people who fear the radiation emitted from a smart meter located on the other side of two walls think nothing of spending hours with computer on their laps or a cell phone pressed against the side of their heads? What about those huge flatscreen televisions that are always on whether or not the tv is "on?" What about the electrical wires running from pole to pole in your backyard? We are being bathed in electromagnetic radiation nearly continuously. I have a smart meter and I don't want to pay for meter readers for those decided to opt out. The fee should cover the cost of the meter readers and no more, but the fee should cover that cost.

Eckermann (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 3:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Impossible for it to know what appliance is being used, silly.

Ken_Volok (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 4:02 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Well my husband had heart palpatations and since the meter was installed they have gone away. Silly me I thought that was the heart medication. The power of the mind is amazing. Some people are so convinced something will make them sick they actually get sick. Did you stop to think your irrational fear of smart meters caused you to freak out so bad you caused the heart palpatations yourself? And precisely how is it that these meters can tell what appliances you are using? Obviously someone has fed you a huge load of something and you ate it up without questioning how ridiculous the claim actually was. Ugh come on people educate yourselves rather than balking at change because it saves a company money. Or get off the grid, the choice is yours.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 4:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

" ... the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has said that radio waves from smart meters can cause “significant harmful biological effects.” ..."

The jury is still out on The American Academy of Environmental Medicine.

They are not recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties and QuackWatch lists them as a questionable organization. They claim fluoride in drinking water is unsafe.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 4:27 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hi, readers. That sentence has been fixed. Thanks.

Tyler (Tyler Hayden)
December 17, 2012 at 4:39 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Even taking the American Academy of Environmental Medicine as legit, there is still problems with what they actually say.

I read these two short reports issued by the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. No such definitive statement, as assumed and parroted by the reporter, exists as suggested in the above article:

Matt Renner wrote --
:: "As many speakers mentioned, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine has said that radio waves from smart meters can cause “significant harmful biological effects.”

What they really say is: "Physicians of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine recognize that patients are being adversely impacted by electromagnetic frequency (EMF) and radiofrequency (RF) fields and are becoming more electromagnetically sensitive."

Later they say: "Based on numerous studies showing harmful biological effects from EMF and RF exposure, medical conditions and disabilities that would more than likely benefit from avoiding exposure include, but are not limited to:..."
(and then list a host of afflictions and conditions).

Which is not the same as saying can cause “significant harmful biological effects.”

The position paper bibliography mentions a host of POSSIBLE effects, of RF-EMF exposure -- from wireless and cell phone use!

I couldn't find any of the papers cited in the bibliography which reflected a test of Smart Meters (Disclaimer: I couldn't read them all, and used the summaries to find the test conditions and components).

And even the citations from the bibliography were far from definitive. Here's an example from The Lancet. Notice the lack of evidence and mild language:

:: "Overall, the Working Group concluded that there is “limited evidence” in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of RF-EMF.

:: "The Working Group also reviewed many studies with endpoints relevant to mechanisms of carcinogenesis, including genotoxicity, effects on immune function, gene and protein expression, cell signalling, oxidative stress, and apoptosis. Studies of the possible effects of RF-EMF on the blood-brain barrier and on a variety of effects in the brain were also considered. Although there was evidence of an effect of RF-EMF on some of these endpoints, the Working Group reached the overall conclusion that these results provided only weak mechanistic evidence relevant to RF-EMF-induced cancer in humans."
(free log-in required)

[yes, this actually continues...]

binky (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 6:09 p.m. (Suggest removal)

...continued ....

Most importantly, RF-EMF exposure from cell and wireless phones is hugely different from Smart Meters, in terms of total exposure time, broadcast area and frequency range, and proximity to the user (you can't get much closer than next to your head -- and electromagnetic waves do weaken over distance. Caution: do not strap a Smart Meter to your melon).

- - - - - -

The other position paper...
"Electromagnetic and Radiofrequency Fields Effect on Human Health,"
. . . is just wack:

- - First this claim:

::: "Electromagnetic field (EMF) hypersensitivity has been documented in controlled and double blind studies with exposure to various EMF frequencies. Rea et al. demonstrated that under double blind placebo controlled conditions, 100% of subjects showed reproducible reactions to that frequency to which they were most sensitive.(22) Pulsed electromagnetic frequencies were shown to consistently provoke neurological symptoms in a blinded subject while exposure to continuous frequencies did not.(23)

No, in fact citation #22 does NOT state "100% of subjects showed reproducible reactions..."

and I quote:

:: "In our experience, the patients’ clinical responses could not always be reproduced completely, but the objective Iriscorder, EKG, and respirometer could be. However, the responses were definitely different from controls or placebo challenges. In our experience over the years, we have found partial reproduction of symptoms on repeat challenge to be as significant as total reproduction. Therefore, significant differences from controls in objective ineasurementa were deemed valid.

: : "There are several explanations for lack of exact reproducibility....

And as they sum up:

:: "It is clear that EMF sensitivity is a real phenomenon in some environmentally sensitive patients, because some had consistent reactions while none of the controls did. This study must be considered as only preliminary, but the evidence clearly points to sensitivity in some people.

: : "In conclusion, it is evident that EMF testing is at a rudimentary stage; but clearly EMF sensitivity exists and can be elicited under environmentally controlled conditions. Further studies are needed to investigate the effects of EMF fields on human health."

- - -

Citation #23, upon which the AAEM dealt with "pulsed electromagnetic frequencies," may I point out it was a test conducted on ONE (1) PERSON?

:: "Electromagnetic hypersensitivity: evidence for a novel neurological syndrome"
(McCarty DE, Carrubba S, Chesson AL, Frilot C, Gonzalez-Toledo E, Marino AA. Source Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, Louisiana)

-- "OBJECTIVE: We sought direct evidence that acute exposure to environmental-strength electromagnetic fields (EMFs) could induce somatic reactions (EMF hypersensitivity).

-- "METHODS: The subject, a female physician self-diagnosed with EMF hypersensitivity, was exposed to an average (over the head) 60-Hz electric field of 300 V/m (comparable with typical environmental-strength EMFs) during controlled provocation and behavioral studies."

- - -

Finally, maybe someone better versed in Biology and Quantum Mechanics than I am can clear this up for me, but I smell a load of bovine hooey in this excerpt from the AAEM, which I provide without further comment:

: : "Government agencies and industry set safety standards based on the narrow scope of Newtonian or "classical" physics reasoning that the effects of atoms and molecules are confined in space and time. This model supports the theory that a mechanical force acts on a physical object and thus, long-range exposure to EMF and RF cannot have an impact on health if no significant heating occurs. However, this is an incomplete model. A quantum physics model is necessary to fully understand and appreciate how and why EMF and RF fields are harmful to humans. In quantum physics and quantum field theory, matter can behave as a particle or as a wave with wave-like properties. Matter and electromagnetic fields encompass quantum fields that fluctuate in space and time. These interactions can have long-range effects which cannot be shielded, are non-linear and by their quantum nature have uncertainty. Living systems, including the human body, interact with the magnetic vector potential component of an electromagnetic field such as the field near a toroidal coil.The magnetic vector potential is the coupling pathway between biological systems and electromagnetic fields. Once a patient's specific threshold of intensity has been exceeded, it is the frequency which triggers the patient's reactions."

: : "Long range EMF or RF forces can act over large distances setting a biological system oscillating in phase with the frequency of the electromagnetic field so it adapts with consequences to other body systems. This also may produce an electromagnetic frequency imprint into the living system that can be long lasting. Research using objective instrumentation has shown that even passive resonant circuits can imprint a frequency into water and biological systems. These quantum electrodynamic effects do exist and may explain the adverse health effects seen with EMF and RF exposure. These EMF and RF quantum field effects have not been adequately studied and are not fully understood regarding human health. "

binky (anonymous profile)
December 17, 2012 at 6:12 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Tyler, you corrected the sentence, but does the paragraph still make sense? Do people really feel that the power company knowing how much energy is being used is an invasion of privacy, or do the people actually think the smart meters know what appliances are being used? Two very different things; please clarify.

Driftwood (anonymous profile)
December 18, 2012 at 9:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

New Smart Meter Can Tell Your Appliances Apart:

I have no idea if that technology was implemented in the smart meters being installed in the county.

This article claims they can potentially tell what channel your tv is set to and whether it is pirated content:

"Our research shows that the analysis of the household’s electricity usage profile at a 0.5s−1 sample rate does reveal what channel the TV set in the household was displaying. It is also possible to identify (copyrightprotected) audiovisual content in the power profile that is displayed on a CRT1, a Plasma display TV or a LCD2 television set with dynamic backlighting. Our test results indicate that a 5 minutes-chunk of consecutive viewing without major interference by other appliances is sufficient to identify the content."

Does nobody here know how to use the google?

loonpt (anonymous profile)
December 18, 2012 at 9:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Your cable company knows what channel you are watching too. Are you going to demand they change their technology? Google has probably shared the many appliances you own to their marketing partners if you did any research on them before you purchased them. Your bank or credit card company knows exactly what you buy and where you shop. You can deal with the reality that nobody cares what you are doing and these things are part of modern technology conveniences or you can continue being paranoid that everyone is watching you. Do you really think your life is so interesting that SCE would employ people to find out what appliances you use and what tv station you watch? Delusions of grandeur or what? Like I said it's a free country you can choose to be off the grid if you want.

MSSB (anonymous profile)
December 18, 2012 at 11:39 a.m. (Suggest removal)

While a smartmeter really only can determine the differences in electric consumption or "load", it only guesses about which appliance is consuming that electricity at that moment.

Of course, once the public figures out that GROW LIGHTS will be reported to The Man, these automated data reporters will be gone!

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
December 18, 2012 at 12:19 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Multicultural Craft Program: Japan

Join us for the first session of our multicultural craft ... Read More