BOWDOINHAM — A Bowdoinham man is suing Central Maine Power Co. over its smart meter opt-out fees, which he argues are discriminatory.

Ed Friedman, who says he has an incurable form of lymphoma, filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Portland Tuesday. The lawsuit argues CMP’s opt-out fees are discriminatory to disabled customers whose conditions may be exacerbated by low-level radiation emitted by the smart meters.

Smart meters transmit information to CMP’s headquarters in Augusta using wireless technology similar to cellphones, which emit radiofrequency radiation.

Friedman argues his doctors recommend he not be exposed to any excess radiation in his home. Even low-level radiation from smart meters may exacerbate “fatigue, cognitive difficulty, memory issues and multiple cancer types,”  states a press release issued by Friedman Thursday.

Friedman asked CMP to waive its opt-out fees in 2016 to accommodate his disability but said CMP declined. He refused to pay the fee “for the same access to safe electricity his neighbors without disabilities received without any surcharge,” resulting in CMP shutting off his power, the release states.

Court documents state that CMP charges a customer who wishes to opt out of the smart meter program an initial charge of $40 plus a recurring monthly charge, which until recently was $15.71 per month.

Friedman alleges that CMP argued its opt-out fees are not discriminatory because they charge the same amount to everyone.

Catharine Hartnett, a spokesperson for CMP, said the utility can’t comment on the specifics of the lawsuit.

“We can say the opt-out fees and structure are set by the Maine Public Utilities Commission,” she said Thursday.

The commission decided in 2011 that CMP should offer an opt-out provision for customers and determined what the appropriate fees were. The commission periodically revisits the fee structure and while discounts were offered to individuals eligible for the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, there have never been waivers for people with disabilities, Hartnett said.

The smart meters have been opposed by critics who believe the wireless technology the devices use to transmit the usage data pose a health threat. However, in January 2016 Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court affirmed a Maine Public Utilities Commission ruling that found the meters are safe.

The Associated Press reported in January 2016 that Friedman was a smart meter opponent who challenged regulators and said the court ignored independent testimony from international experts.

According to the American Cancer Society, smart meters give off a low-energy radiation that is a possible carcinogen. While they could increase cancer risk, “it isn’t clear what risk, if any there might be from living in a home with a smart meter” the cancer society’s website states.

“Because the low levels of energy from (radiofrequency) radiation have not been clearly shown to cause problems even at close range, it isn’t clear that lowering exposure to (radiofrequency) radiation has health benefits,” the American Cancer Society states.

At the end of 2019 there were about 5,500 out of 630,000 CMP customers who opted out of smart meters, according to Hartnett.

 

Comments are not available on this story.