Opposition to the IID Smart Meters

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From The Desert Sun
IID board responds as smart meters hit wave of opposition
Jun. 8, 2011

The Imperial Irrigation District will likely offer its customers an opt-out plan when the district starts installing smart meters in its service territory in the Coachella and Imperial valleys.

The IID board has yet to approve a meter replacement plan. But even the possibility that it may be getting the digital devices — already installed in Southern California Edison’s service area in the valley — has some customers on high alert.

“What we fear coming is a tsunami of smart meters,” said Len Wahlert, a La Quinta resident who spoke during the public comment section of Tuesday’s IID board meeting.

Wahlert was one of about 10 ratepayers who said he was concerned about health, safety, privacy and the cost issues related to the new meters, which can use wireless technology that emits radio frequencies.

“This isn’t just a smart meter, it’s a smart grid,” said Myrette Rogers of Sky Valley, another IID customer who spoke at the meeting. “I’m just someone out there using your power. I can’t sit still and let something happen that could be dangerous.”

Board member Anthony Sanchez answered the group’s concerns with an unequivocal reassurance.

“People will have the option to opt out,” he said.

The district’s plans to replace 100,000 of its 147,000 meters — many of which are outdated — are still being finalized, said Mario Escalera, an energy manager for the district, which serves residents in La Quinta, Indio and Coachella, as well as Bermuda Dunes and other unincorporated areas east of Washington Street.

Replacement meters will cost about $29 million, to be paid out of the district’s operating budget, he said.

That cost will be balanced by savings of about $27.5 million in efficiencies the meters will produce over an eight-year period, he said.IID’s 25 meter readers will be reassigned, he said, with no job losses. IID officials also stressed that the meter replacement program will be different from controversial smart meter programs introduced by private utilities such as Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric.

While a recent study by the California Council on Science and Technology found no health threats related to the radio frequencies emitted by the digital meters, customer protests in Northern California forced PG&E to offer a proposal for an opt-out plan.

The California Public Utilities Commission has yet to approve the proposed plan that will allow customers to have the radio signals on installed smart meters turned off for a one-time fee topping out at $270.

In addition, opting out would put an extra $10 to $20 on customers’ bills.

IID officials said they have yet to make any decisions about what extra costs such a plan might incur.

The district plan does not include using the meters to control power loads – for example, turning off power during hot weather peaks – or for continuous monitoring of home or business energy use.Nor will the district be introducing variable pricing or time-of-use rates that charge different rates depending on the time of day power is used, as Edison is planning, Escalera said.

Before any roll-out, the district will have public meetings in both the Coachella and Imperial valleys, Escalera said.

But Wahlert said even an opt-out plan may not be enough to assuage customer concerns.

“One house has an opt-out but they’re surrounded by other houses that have meters,” he said. “Just one family not having a meter really doesn’t solve the problem.”




This briefing letter has been prepared to educate home owners about the potential health, safety, security and economic issues related to roll-out of the California Electric Utilities Smart Meter programs. This program, when initiated, will result in your electric meter being changed out by your Utility and a new Smart Meter will be installed in its place. These new meters may have substantial effects on your family and property.

Prior to meter replacement, the government authorities and the utilities have not conducted adequate studies addressing the potential health, safety, security and economic costs/benefit concerns that are being voiced around the country by consumers, utility analysts, economists, Internet security experts and parents.


Imperial Irrigation District (IID) is planning to install Smart Meters in all of the homes in La Quinta, Indio, Coachella, Imperial Valley and the adjoining rural areas. Many homeowners are rejecting these installations and we, CCOLQ, are gathering signatures of those who oppose Smart Meter installations. These petitions will be submitted to IID in bulk.

Community Concerns and Issues:

The program is expensive with very little demonstration that consumers will want this service, or choose to participate. They include economic concerns, lack of privacy of personal information, easier disconnection of service, health and safety concerns, reliability, increased vulnerability to hacking, increased risk of planting of malicious software on networks, security risks when away from home (burglaries), fire risks, explosions, interference with critical care equipment (medical), and meter overcharges. While there is on-going deliberation about the pros and cons of smart meters, we hope our community will become better informed before the utility starts installing meters.

Are we, Concerned Citizens of La Quinta, alone in our questioning with regard to the installation of Smart Meters?  The following list of California counties/cities are opposed to Smart Meters. Those in italic indicate an ordinance banning smart meters.

42 local California governmental jurisdictions opposed to smart meters in their communities:

The County Board of Supervisors of Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Sonoma, Tehama.

The cities of Arcata, Belvedere, Berkeley, Blue Lake, Bolinas, Camp Meeker, Capitola, Clearlake, Cotati, Fairfax, Fort Bragg, Grover, Lakeport, Mill Valley, Monte Sereno, Monterey, Morro Bay, Novato, Pacific Grove, Piedmont, Richmond, Rio Dell, Ross, San Anselmo, San Rafael, Santa Cruz, Sausalito, Scotts Valley, Seaside, Sebastopol and Watsonville, Willits.

CCOLQ’s desire is to inform the City of La Quinta and  IID that we oppose the installation of a wireless Smart Grid Meter at our home.  We do not want our families to be exposed to the wireless electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radio frequency microwave radiation (RF) from the meter, the cell transmission towers.  These fields can potentially interfere with electronic and medical devices, can cause potential security and hacking risks of personal information, and can be potential fire hazard from poorly installed meters.

1.     The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has begun requiring northern California Utility, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, to provide an “opt out” option for its customers but this is no solution to the individual homeowner as each home will still be under the influence of their neighbor’s Smart Meters and EMF Information Tower, thus, continued risks.

2.     The value of Smart Meters is touted to be power-use timing and subsequent power savings.  This cannot occur unless each household agrees to purchase and install a wireless sending unit from each of their electrical appliances.  The average cost to the homeowner is estimated to be $200, or more, depending on the number of major appliances in the home.  The fact that many homeowners would make these purchases is questionable.

3.     It is reported by the Associated Press that computer-security researchers have stated that Smart Meters have flaws that could allow hackers to tamper with the power grid and with household information that was not previously possible.

4.     Smart Meters costs, eventually paid through rate increases by the homeowner, are substantial.  All costs including meters, transmission and technical facilities for the 20+ million PG&E customers is reported to be $2.2 Billion = $2100 per meter.

5.     The studies that the utility industries are using to back up the safety of Smart Meters have been questioned by many influential individuals and organizations.  There is an important need for an unbiased study of all details pertaining to their installation and should be addressed before any purchases/installations.

Please join us in support of opposing installation of Smart Meters in La Quinta and the Coachella Valley.


A recent article was published in the Los Angeles Times:


Opponents of PG&E ‘smart meters’ stand firm

The utility faces resistance from homeowners, city planners, environmentalists and political conservatives worried about health effects, accuracy, privacy and jurisdiction.

By Louis Sahagun, Los Angeles Times
May 29, 2011
Reporting from Fairfax, Calif.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s plan to install ‘smart meters’ in this affluent Bay Area community of eco-friendly homes, yoga studios and organic restaurants has unleashed a torrent of anger among customers who fear the devices will expose them to hazardous pulses of electromagnetic radiation.

Hundreds of Fairfax residents have posted red-and-white “Smart meter not here” signs beside their mechanical meters as a warning to PG&E technicians. A few have secured their spinning-dial meters with gates, cages and padlocks.

“There’s no way they’re taking my meters away, and I don’t want them putting things on my property that I don’t want,” said local Realtor Diane Hoffman, fastening a padlock onto a wooden gate guarding her home meter.

The power company, which has about 10 million customers from Bakersfield to Eureka, has installed nearly 8 million radio-controlled digital smart meters since last summer.

The meters transmit data about electrical use over wireless networks to the utility company, enabling it to assess power demands and make adjustments to prevent blackouts, and giving consumers real-time data to help them reduce consumption. They are an integral part of efforts to create a “smart grid” nationwide that uses electricity more efficiently and can better accommodate alternative energy sources.

Nonetheless, finishing the installation in California won’t be easy. The new meters have galvanized an unusual alliance of environmentalists, city planners, private land owners and politically conservative activists worried about the health effects, accuracy and privacy of smart meters, as well as jurisdictional conflicts with PG&E.

The “tea party” recently hosted a gathering of smart-meter opponents in Santa Barbara.

Protesters also gathered this month in Sacramento and at PG&E’s San Francisco headquarters. Joshua Hart, director of a group called Stop Smart Meters!, said participants included “people with heartbreaking personal stories to tell about sleeping in the parking lots of churches and department stores to escape the bursts of electromagnetic radiation that have made them ill and fearful.”

The cities of Fairfax, Capitola and Watsonville and Marin and Santa Cruz counties have approved emergency moratoriums on smart meters. The Fairfax Town Council plans to renew its one-year moratorium in this community of about 7,500 people.

“We refer to our moratorium as a cold truce in a low-intensity conflict,” said Mayor Larry Bragman, a local trial lawyer. “We’ve had ordinances on the books since 1997 requiring all proposed wireless communications projects to go through the town’s planning processes. PG&E completely circumvented all of that.”

He added, “The mayor and police will show up if they try and install a smart meter in town.”

Smart meters operate at low power and in the radio frequency portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. At these levels, radio signals from smart meters are unlikely to produce harmful thermal effects, according to a recent study by the nonpartisan, nonprofit California Council on Science and Technology, which advises state government on technology issues. The study determined that radio frequency emissions from smart meters fall well within federal safety standards for cellphones and microwave ovens.

Citing that study and others, PG&E says it would take 1,000 years of living next to a smart meter to get the same exposure to radio frequency emissions cellphone users get in just one month.

But non-thermal effects of absorbed radio frequency emissions on human health remain unclear. Complaints of “electromagnetic stress” blamed on cellphones and smart meters include such symptoms as headaches, fatigue and irritability.

Studies are being conducted to understand possible non-thermal effects, particularly any cumulative impact of living next to a network of smart meters.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said local moratoriums are invalid. “PG&E does not and will not honor any moratorium because the smart-meter program falls under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission,” he said.

But CPUC officials forced the utility to come up with an alternative plan for customers who object to the technology. In March, PG&E submitted a proposal that would allow customers to opt out of the program, provided they pay $135 to $270 to have the device’s radio transmitter disconnected. Those customers would be charged $14 to $20 per month for a technician to read their meter.

Ed Segal, chief executive of the Marin County Assn. of Realtors, described PG&E’s proposal as “extortion by a monopoly.”

Pending a final ruling on the proposal by the CPUC, customers who object to smart meters will be allowed to defer their installations, PG&E said.

“We’re trying hard to do a better job of reaching out to our customers in terms of explaining the smart-meter program and its benefits,” Smith said. “The problem was that when we started rolling out the program, we looked at it as just a hardware replacement job. We realized, not quickly enough, that the issue was very personal to some customers.”

David Owens, an executive vice president of the Edison Electric Institute, a lobbying arm of the utility industry, is on the same page.

“The pushback to smart meters has come from portions of California and Maine, and that’s because we haven’t done a good job of educating consumers,” he said. “We don’t want it to reach an epidemic stage, so we’re conducting surveys and focus groups and learning a lot about how to take the anxiety and sensational stuff out of this program.”

“I don’t even use the phrase ‘smart meter’ anymore,” he said. “I just call them automated metering devices.”

Barry Smith, executive director of a fledgling organization called Alliance for Human and Environmental Health, said Owens misses the point.

“The key issue for the CPUC to decide is whether entire communities have a right to opt out of the smart-meter program,” Smith said. “Do the laws on the books in our towns and counties matter? Or does industry alone determine outcomes for our citizens?”

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times




4 Responses to Opposition to the IID Smart Meters

  1. Len Wahlert says:

    Update from The Desert Sun on Smart Meters:
    From September 12, 2011

    Regulators to mull smart meter policies

    Groups want utilities to allow clients to opt out

    Written by
    K Kaufmann
    The Desert Sun

    Southern California Edison
    Plug in to the PUC

    The California Public Utilities Commission will hold a public workshop on smart meter opt-out programs from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday at the PUC offices in San Francisco.

    To view online, visit: http://www.californiaadmin.com/cpuc.shtml.

    To dial in, call (877) 347-9604;
    user code: 771069.

    For more information, contact Marzia Zafar at: marzia.zafar@cpuc.ca.gov.
    The California Public Utilities Commission will hold an all-day public meeting Wednesday in San Francisco to discuss how the state’s private utilities might provide smart meter opt-out programs for consumers who don’t want the digital devices installed in their homes.

    The digital meters have sparked controversy and opposition from consumers in the Coachella Valley and across California who have raised concerns about health, cost and security issues related to the meters.

    “We want a complete opt-out option without cost to the customer. We’re asking to have the analog meters restored,” said Christina Michas, president of the Palm Springs Patriots Coalition Desert Valley Tea Party, one of 15 groups that petitioned the PUC in July to require Southern California Edison to develop an opt-out plan.

    Commission officials ordered Wednesday’s workshop in response to petitions asking that Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric and San Diego Gas & Electric all develop opt-out plans.

    The meeting is expected to cover the nuts and bolts of opt-out plans, such as what kind of meters should be used instead of the digital, wireless devices the utilities have been installing and whether customers should have to pay extra to keep their old meters.
    Public comments will not be taken at the workshop, nor will official decisions be made, said Andrew Kotch, a PUC spokesman.

    After ongoing complaints from customers, PG&E submitted an opt-out proposal earlier this year, allowing customers to switch off the wireless technology in their smart meters at a cost. The proposal calls for opt-out customers to pay upfront fees of $135 to $270 and a monthly bill increase of $10 to $20.

    Southern California Edison started installing the 120,000 digital meters in the valley in November and finished earlier this year.

    In the weeks and months following the installations, customers complained about sudden spikes in their bills and power surges that burned out household appliances.

    Some consumers also have said the wireless radio frequencies can cause a range of health problems, from headaches and sleeplessness to heart problems and increased cancer risks.

    But Edison and other utilities have maintained the meters are accurate, pose no health threats and will allow customers to use energy more efficiently and save money.
    Edison appears to be sending mixed messages on the opt-out issue. In a recent filing with the PUC, it asked the commission to dismiss the opt-out petition from the 15 groups, including Palm Springs Patriots and Concerned Citizens of La Quinta.
    The petition was “premature,” the Edison filing said, but added that the company would file an opt-out proposal if ordered to do so.

    Imperial Irrigation District, which is not under the jurisdiction of the PUC, has yet to install smart meters, but is working on an installation plan that might include an opt-out program, district officials said.

    The district provides electricity for valley residents in Bermuda Dunes, La Quinta, Indio and Coachella.

    Even so, Robert Sylk, chairman of Concerned Citizens of La Quinta, said his group joined Palm Springs Patriots and groups in other Edison-served cities in their petition to the PUC out of concern that any opt-out plan the company adopts could become a model for IID.

    “I don’t feel it should be an opt-out program; it should be an opt-in program,” he said.

  2. Len Wahlert says:

    From the Desert Sun: September 27, 2011

    Palm Desert resident Christina Michas posted a sign below her analog electrical meter to alert workers not to install a new wireless smart meter at her home.
    Crystal Chatham/The Desert Sun

    Analog to digital: What’s changed?

    Analog electrical meters date back to the end of the 19th century, when the spread of commercial electric utilities led to the need to measure customers’ electricity use.

    The underlying design has not changed since then, consisting of aluminum disks that spin at a rate proportional to electric use and have to be read directly off the device.

    The new digital smart meters record electrical use in real time, on an hourly or more frequent basis. They offer two-way communication between the meter and a central system, eliminating the need for meter readers. They also can flag power outages and monitor power quality.

    Get on the list

    Southern California Edison has set up two numbers for customers to call to delay installation of smart meters:

    English: (800) 810-2369
    Spanish: (800) 477-4455

    Health and privacy issues

    Because smart meters run on wireless technology, they also raise health and privacy issues for some consumers. Meter opponents say the emission of radio frequencies by the meters can cause a range of health problems, from headaches and sleeplessness to heart problems and increased cancer risks.

    Some consumers also are worried about the security of data collected from the meters, which they say could provide detailed information on their electricity use, daily routines and lifestyle.

    Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a smart meter data protection law in September 2010 to ensure utilities do not share any customer information from the new meters without a person’s consent.

    On the health front, a recent study from the California Council on Science and Technology reported that the level of emissions from smart meters is less than from many other home appliances. But the council also said not all the potential side effects of the meters are known and more study is needed.

  3. Len Wahlert says:

    Article from The Desert Sun, September 27, 2011

    Customers can delay installation of new ‘smart meters’
    State regulators considering possible opt-out plans

    Homeowners who don’t already have digital “smart meters” from Southern California Edison and other utilities can request an installation delay, state regulators have ruled.

    The California Public Utilities Commission specified last week in a five-page decision that consumers can simply make a phone call to halt installation of the new-generation power meters, and the utilities must comply.

    Smart meter installation in western Coachella Valley cities sparked complaints from some Edison customers who reported sudden spikes in their electric bills and power surges that burned out appliances.

    Edison has installed about 124,000 meters in the valley since last November. A relatively small percentage of customers held on to their analog devices, Edison spokesman David Song said Monday.

    The utility provides power in the west valley, including Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage.

    The Imperial Irrigation District is working on a smart meter plan for its customers in the east valley, but officials said it likely will have an opt-out provision.

    Brian B. Torsney of Palm Desert tried to refuse installation of an Edison smart meter at his home earlier this year.

    But even after calling Edison to request a delay, “they came anyway,” he recalled.

    “They were quite clear on the phone they didn’t really care what my wishes were,” he said.

    Song responded that Edison was not required to have a delay list until Monday.

    “If someone called, we couldn’t accommodate that,” he said.

    Christina Michas, also of Palm Desert, still has her analog meter and is part of the Consumers Power Alliance, a coalition of community groups that are pushing the PUC and utilities for a plan that would allow consumers to refuse the new meters all together.

    “We want an opt-out so those that have smart meters can have them replaced at no cost to the consumer,” she said.

    In response to an increasingly loud and adamant chorus of consumer complaints across the state, the PUC held a workshop earlier this month to look at different possibilities for opt-out plans — and cost was a key issue.

    PG&E earlier this year submitted a proposal for an opt-out plan that would charge customers an up-front fee of $135-$270 to turn off the wireless technology, plus an extra $14-$20 a month.

    Too expensive, said Mindy Spatt, spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group in San Francisco.

    “For a choice to be meaningful, it has to be affordable,” she said. “It’s clear that a lot of consumers don’t want these meters.”

    Cost could be the deciding factor for Edison customers such as Robert Roberts of Cathedral City, who twice refused to let installers change his meter.

    “When it comes to the nitty- gritty, I will allow them to put in a new meter rather than charge me,” he said.

    Under the PUC ruling, the utilities now also must provide customers with sufficient notice of a planned meter installation so they have time to request a delay.

    Any customers requesting a delay must immediately be put on a delay list. They will not receive a smart meter unless they request one or the utility gets special authorization from the executive director of the PUC.

    K Kaufmann covers energy and green technology, retail, and health care for The Desert Sun. She can be reached at k.kaufmann@thedesertsun.com or (760) 778-4622.

  4. Len Wahlert says:

    We Won! It can be done….citizens can take back their government.


    (Santa Barbara, CA – April 19, 2012) In an historic pro-consumer ruling, the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) voted in favor of Consumers Power Alliance (CPA), a consumer rights coalition headquartered in Santa Barbara, and ordered Southern California Edison (SCE) to provide Opt-Outs for their customers. The Decision – that affects SCE’s approximately 11 million customers – followed eleven months of legalities that included a workshop, pleadings and hearings regarding the PG&E Opt-Out Plan, which ultimately became the template for the SCE Plan.

    It was not an easy battle for the grassroots organization SCE initially balked at changing the mandatory program to one that allowed customers to have their say. Over the course of the proceedings, the wireless smart meters became increasingly unpopular, as customer complaints of bruising, sometimes bankrupting bills, disabling radiation sickness, fried appliance and wiring, fires, and other hazards grabbed the attention of media and elected officials. More and more California communities took action, including the counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo, and the cities of Carpinteria, Goleta, Solvang, Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, Buellton, and the village of Montecito. Citing unresolved health and safety concerns, the civic leaders of 55 California communities notified the CPUC that they wanted the utilities to offer Opt-Outs for the protection of the health and safety of their residents.

    Highlights of the SCE plan include permanent opt-outs “for any and no reason” and retention of the customer’s current analog meter, or, if removed, restoration of their old meter. Approval was given to interim fees of $75 for set-up and $10 per month for meter reading, discounted interim CARE fees of $10 for set-up and $5 per month, and a three month installment payment plan for set-up fees. Per the decision, a Phase 2 Hearing, as yet unscheduled, will be held to determine the final fees, the viability of community opt-outs, and other relevant details.

    Passage of the SCE Opt-Out Plan closes the six-month long Delay Install Program, where customers could stop installation with a simple telephone call. The utility will now be permitted to install free of restrictions. However, the CPUC has directed the utility to provide customers seeking Opt-Outs – who do not want a smart meter or had a smart meter erroneously installed and want their old meter restored – with an Opt-Out Service. If this service follows PG&E’s procedures, it will include a toll free number, internet application, and notification of all Delay Install customers via telephone and letter.

    As our attorney releases further information and analysis, you will be informed. CPA wishes to extend our deepest thanks to the thousands of volunteers who made V-Day happen. Congratulate yourselves. This has been truly a team effort. We have a couple more things to wrap up, including getting more of our neighbors to opt-out.

    DECISION MODIFYING DECISION 08-09-039 – Conclusions of Law – Effective Now.
    A residential customer should be allowed to opt-out of a wireless smart meter for any reason, or for no reason.
    The opt-out option adopted must balance the concerns expressed by customers against California’s overall energy policy.
    Allowing residential customers an opportunity to opt out of receiving a wireless smart meter should not impede ongoing state energy objectives.
    It is important that the selected opt-out option has the capability to allow customers to take advantage of smart grid benefits.
    Although a non-communicating smart meter is the preferred opt-out option, an analog meter opt-out option could be offered at this time, as there are no mandatory residential TOU rates.
    Customers who participate in the opt-out option should retain the meter currently installed at their location or receive the meter form (i.e., an analog meter or a non-analog, non-smart digital meter) that had been at the customer’s location prior to the installation of a wireless smart meter.
    Until there is additional information on the costs to offer multiple opt-out options, only a single opt-out option should be offered.
    Since SCE’s deployment of the Edison SmartConnect Program is consistent with the requirements of D.08-09-039, it should be allowed to recover the costs associated with offering the opt-out option to the extent those costs are found to be appropriate, reasonable and not already being recovered in rates.
    A residential customer selecting the opt-out option should be assessed an initial charge and a monthly charge.
    A discount should be provided to customers enrolled in the CARE program.
    There should be a second phase in this proceeding to consider cost and cost allocation issues associated with offering an opt-out option
    It would be appropriate to include the substantive and procedural components of D.12-02-014 in this proceeding for purposes of statewide consistency.
    The modifications to SCE’s Edison SmartConnect Program to include an opt-out program should be implemented as quickly as possible.
    An interim initial fee and monthly charge for customers electing the opt-out option should be assessed until a final decision on cost and allocation issues is issued.
    SCE should be authorized to establish a new two-way memorandum account to track revenues and costs associated with providing the opt-out option until a final decision on cost and allocation issues is issued.
    The September 21, 2011 Assigned Commissioner’s Ruling directing the utilities to allow residential customers to be placed on a delay list should no longer be applicable for SCE.
    Thank you for your support.

    Consumers Power Alliance (CPA) is putting power back into the hands of consumers. Donations should be sent directly to Tobin Law. Find the mailing address on our webpage:

    Consumers Power Alliance (CPA) is a public benefit association dedicated to the ongoing education, representation, and protection of California consumers. CPA participates in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) regulatory proceedings and other related activities.

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