Even as Central Maine Power has installed more than 600,000 smart meters in Maine, some critics are still raising safety concerns about the wireless power readers.

To buttress their case, they point to a national physicians group that recently came out publicly against smart meters. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine sent a letter Jan. 19 to the California Public Utilities Commission, opposing the installation of wireless smart meters in homes and schools.

Ed Friedman of Bowdoinham, the lead plaintiff in a Maine Public Utilities Commission appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, said he was thrilled by the group’s position. The academy, in raising concerns about smart meters, said that “chronic exposure to wireless radio frequency radiation is a preventable environmental hazard that is sufficiently well-documented to warrant immediate preventative public health action.”

But the academy’s position isn’t expected to have much of an impact in Maine. The Maine Public Utilities Commission in August dismissed the complaint that Friedman had filed raising health concerns about the meters.

Friedman’s group has until Tuesday to submit its response to the PUC’s reply brief on the appeal to the state supreme court.

CMP spokesman John Carroll said all Maine schools have wireless technology, yet the American Academy of Environmental Medicine chose to focus on smart meters.

“If the concern really is with wireless technology, then smart meters may be the least concern for anyone,” Carroll said. “Why wouldn’t they focus on getting wireless out of schools or create wireless-free workplaces and hospitals, for instance? I just wonder how thorough they are in their thinking.”

In dismissing the complaint, the Maine PUC said all of the issues had been adequately investigated and resolved in its previous proceedings. Last May, the commission required CMP to allow its customers to opt out of the smart meters program by paying a monthly fee, but it wasn’t based on health or safety concerns.

According to CMP’s website, choosing a digital smart meter with the wireless transmitter turned off will carry an initial charge of $20, plus a monthly charge of $10.50. Keeping an existing mechanical meter will cost $40 up front, plus $12 a month.

According to Maine PUC Commissioner Vendean Vafiades, the opt-out program ordered last May was a matter of “sound public policy.” In order for the program to succeed, she said, the PUC needed to allow “the small minority to opt out.”

PUC Chairman Thomas Welch said the additional fee to opt out covers a portion of expenses incurred by CMP to read meters “the old-fashioned way.”

Friedman contends the PUC’s mandated installation of smart meters across Maine is “one great big uncontrolled experiment brought to us by an agency working hand-in-glove with the utility industry.”

Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Mechele Cooper can be contacted at 621-5663 or at:

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