Support Grows for Smart Meter Opt-Out Legislation

BOSTON: The legal right to refuse a smart meter is “fundamentally an issue of the principle of choice,” testified Rep. Tom Conroy (D) Wayland at the Telecommunications Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Smart meters wirelessly transmit granular usage data to utilities and 3rd parties, receive and implement instructions, can control thermostats and appliances plus make remote shut-off possible. 40M wireless ‘smart’ meters have been installed nationally since 2009: tens of millions more globally. Several Massachusetts towns have deployed. National Grid and NStar are conducting pilots. The Final Roadmap report is due to DPU July 3rd.

A boisterous, respectful protest took place in front of the State House prior to the standing room only hearing. Conroy testified the bill grants “consumers choice when they want to opt-out of that effort for whatever reason, and there are all sorts of different studies being done at this time about the potentially physically damaging effect of the smart meters.” Notwithstanding that “the president of the United States and the governor are behind this,” he advocated “these are people’s homes. If you put yourself in the shoes of these homeowners who have sometimes been there 20, 30, 50 years – to suddenly feel like you are not safe in your own home because of something over which you had no choice – that’s a terrible feeling.“ He said “There are a lot of concerned citizens out there.”

Rep. Andrea Boland (D), Maine testified “The movement to permit opt-outs nationwide is growing” and “the threat of health effects is real. The conditions vary from mild to overwhelmingly debilitating and it can stay with a person for a lifetime, once it settles in. The threat of loss of privacy is real.” She went on “the Maine Public Utilities Commission has now commenced a financial audit of the Maine system. You will find great resistance to offering opt-outs. The industry will describe all the benefits of being able to monitor individual usage from a distance and downplay the health and security risks. They will talk about savings and efficiency but you will likely find them coming back to you for rate increases as we have.” Central Maine Power, last month requested an 8% rate increase after revising ‘smart’ metering projected $25M savings to an $80 to $99M cost.

Janet Newton, EMR Policy Institute testified that FCC guidelines are not standards, which require human epidemiological studies. “Currently there are no national or international “standards” for safety levels of radiofrequency devices,” she quoted De-Kun Li, MD, PhD, MPH, of Kaiser Permanente, “to claim that they meet ‘FCC’ standards gives a false impression of safety certainty compared to ‘guidelines’ which implies that a lot is ‘unknown.’”

In support of bill H. 2926, co-sponsored by Conroy, Elisa Boxer, former Maine news anchor; Phyllis Traver, Duxbury Building Biologist and Jean Lemieux, Mass. Assoc. for the Chemically Injured, citizens from the Berkshires to Brockton and anti-smart meter groups, including spoke. Four spoke in opposition, including National Grid. The Committee is still accepting written submissions.

Clare Donegan is a member of Email