Consumers worried about the potential health effects of PG&E's SmartMeters vowed Wednesday to continue their grass-roots fight against the wireless devices, with one group of activists calling the utility's installation of the meters "a giant experiment on the population."
Last week, the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved a one-year moratorium on installation at the behest of residents concerned that the meters, which currently are being rolled out throughout PG&E's vast Northern California service territory, could cause brain cancer and other ailments. The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors passed a similar moratorium Tuesday.
But the votes are largely symbolic, designed to put political pressure on regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission. The PUC regulates PG&E and is the only entity with the jurisdiction to put a moratorium in place. To date the PUC has not shown any interest in putting the brakes on the program.
Some activists are hopeful that Gov. Jerry Brown, who will soon announce two new appointments to the PUC's five-member board, will choose people sympathetic to their concerns regarding SmartMeters.
A review of scientific studies released Tuesday by the not-for-profit California Council on Science and Technology found no evidence of health risks from SmartMeters but said more research is needed.
Meanwhile, debate over the meters and their impact on health rages on. Many
"I don't use a cell phone and many of my friends are giving theirs up as the health risks become clear," Scotts Valley activist Joshua Hart said in an e-mail. "Allowing people to purchase and use these items is in another moral ball field from MANDATORY installation."
Stop SmartMeters, the EMF Safety Network and other groups opposing SmartMeters continue to hear from people saying that the meters cause headaches, nausea and sleep problems.
As of Jan. 6, PG&E had installed 7.5 million SmartMeters. Deployment is under way in Santa Clara County, where more than 600,000 meters have been installed.
Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-Marin, has introduced legislation that would direct the PUC to provide an opt-out alternative, allowing customers to choose to have a hard-wired meter installed instead of a wireless one. The bill appears to be gaining support in the Legislature and is expected to have its first policy hearing this spring.
"We are recommitting to engaging more fully with communities where SmartMeter devices are about to be installed," PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said Wednesday. "We want to provide more information about the program and answer customer questions as part of upgrading the community's meters."
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706. Follow her at Twitter.com/danahull.