Saturday March 17, 2012
As the one who presented the resolution requesting a moratorium on the CVPS’ smart meter rollout in Bennington, I was dismayed to see that citizen interests appear to have no bearing on the company’s plan to install the devices. From my perspective, CVPS has failed to address people’s concerns about privacy, safety and cost.
In response to criticism of the $10 per month “opt-out fee,” CVPS spokesman Steve Costello told the Banner, “It’s not for opting out, it’s for the cost of reading the meter.”
If that’s the case, this represents a significant rate increase: a $10 monthly surcharge for service people already have. However, CVPS chooses to tuck fees into the bill, customers will be charged for a technology they may not even want. While Saturday’s article did not address the topic of privacy, it’s important that CVPS customers understand that these meters give the utility real-time data about electricity/appliance usage which could 1) be used to adjust fees according to peak usage times; or 2) be shared with or sold to third-parties such as law enforcement agencies or marketing firms.
As for possible effects on health, Costello’s assurance that the radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted by smart meters is “no more dangerous than a baby monitor” failed to put the question to rest. First of all, the FCC standards for RF radiation have not been updated since 1992. Secondly, these standards rested on the assumption that thermal (heat) effects posed the greatest threat.
Subsequent studies have noted risks apart from heat effects, including altered DNA (associated with the risk of cancer), metabolism, brain development, and fertility in males. In January, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine issued a statement calling for a moratorium on the installation of smart meters, noting concern about the cumulative effects of RF over time and the particular vulnerability of developing children.
In places where smart meters have been introduced, such as British Columbia and several communities in California, many people have described health complaints including headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations and insomnia — symptoms that disappear once the meters have been removed. Instead of dismissing these people as cranks, I’d say such reports suggest that we look into the health implications and take a cautious approach. Medical problems linked with a given substance or technology may take years or decades to come to light.
In the Banner piece, CVPS’s Costello said it “isn’t the Vermont way” to question whether adopting smart meters is in the public interest. I would argue that it isn’t the Vermont way to allow a private for-profit entity — in this case a Canadian corporation — to impose a questionable and costly technology against the expressed will of the people.
JUDITH D. SCHWARTZ