Pacific Gas & Electric (“PG&E”) and the EMF Safety Network (“Network”) battled over the summer regarding the safety of smart meters.  In early spring, Network submitted an Application to the California Public Utility Commission (“CPUC”) requesting the Commission modify its previous orders approving PG&E’s smart meter program alleging health related concerns. EMF Safety Network is self-described in the application as “a coalition of business and property owners, concerned citizens and PG&E ratepayers in northern California who address health, environmental, and safety impacts associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF) and radiofrequency radiation (RF) technologies.” Network’s mission is public education, policy development, and community advocacy to limit further widespread, chronic, involuntary EMF and RF exposures. Network requested the following modifications:

  • re-open Commission review of PG&E’s Smart Meter program
  • require PG&E to submit an independently prepared RF Emissions study
  • schedule evidentiary hearings on RF health, environmental, and safety impacts
  • review actual Smart Meter program performance
  • require PG&E to amend its tariff to afford customers the right to opt out of the smart meter program; and
  • impose an immediate moratorium on PG&E installation of new Smart Meters pending completion of the requested study, evidentiary hearings and the proposed Commission review.

PG&E filed a Protest of Network’s Application as well as a Motion to Dismiss. In the motion, PG&E argued that the Commission should dismiss Network’s Application on the grounds that the field of RF emissions is pre-empted by federal law, that the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) is the body responsible for RF regulation, that all meters with smart meter technology have been licensed or certified by the FCC and that the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution precludes the CPUC from regulating RF emissions.

A flurry of protests, replies and comments ensued during the summer of Smart Grid Smackdown, including comments to the Proposed Decision (“PD”) granting PG&E’s motion to dismiss. The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (“DRA”) argued in its comments that the CPUC is responsible to ensure that smart meters do not endanger public health and “Unless the public’s concerns can be put to rest, there is a very great risk that PG&E’s Smart Meter deployment will turn out to be a $2.2 billion mistake that ratepayers can ill afford.”

On December 2, 2010, the CPUC, paved the way for PG&E’s continued deployment of smart meters by adopting the PD and granting PG&E’s motion to dismiss. Given the emotional protest involved, I have a feeling the case and the issues raised will not end with the CPUC’s decision.  

Lisa Romani contributed to this post.