October 30, 2013

Debate on health and smart meters on view at Maine hearing

Some 620,000 digital meters have been installed in Maine, but that doesn’t mean the critics have quit.

By Tux Turkel tturkel@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

The case relies heavily on outside experts because very little research into the issue has been done locally.

Last winter, the Maine public advocate commissioned an independent study of radio-frequency emissions from the smart meters. It found maximum exposure levels that were far below what the Federal Communications Commission considers safe. The FCC regulates equipment that broadcasts radio frequency signals.

The results, however, were dismissed by smart-meter opponents. They said the findings were expected and are meaningless, because harm is being done at emission levels lower than the FCC guidelines.

Maine is not alone in trying to sort out the emotional and conflicting claims.

At least a dozen agencies, in places ranging from California, Michigan and Nevada to Canada and the United Kingdom, have looked into the issue of smart meters and public health. None have concluded that radio frequency energy from smart meters is responsible for medical issues.

“CMP isn’t qualified to do a scientific analysis,” Carroll said. “We just need to show what the consensus is, and every place it has been looked at, smart meters are considered a safe technology.”

In Maine, the PUC allows people who don’t want smart meters at their homes or businesses to opt out and go back to analog meters. But they need to pay $12 a month to cover the cost of the optional equipment and meter reading. Opt-outs peaked at 8,622 in May 2012, according to CMP. The number is now just above 8,000, the company estimates.

Based on the track record in other states, it seems unlikely that the Maine PUC will find that smart meters are a health hazard. But if it does, the remedy isn’t clear.

Bruce McGlauflin, a lawyer representing smart meter opponents, said actions could range from having all the smart meters removed and replaced, to finding an alternative solution to reading the meters without a wireless network. He also suggested that people who don’t want the meters could opt out without paying the $12 monthly fee.

But if the PUC decides the meters don’t pose a health risk, CMP said it would oppose any remedy that makes all customers pay to placate a vocal minority.

“If there’s no health risk, why allow people to opt out?” he said. “What’s the logic in not having these people pay?”

 

Tux Turkel can be contacted 791-6462 or

tturkel@pressherald.com

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