The Seaside City Council took a hard stand Thursday against SmartMeters — the controversial wireless utility meters being installed for millions of PG&E customers in California.
On a 5-0 vote, the council approved an urgency ordinance to put a temporary moratorium on the installation of SmartMeters in the city.
Several cities and counties, including Watsonville and Marin County, have approved similar local laws, while others have asked PG&E to allow customers the choice of whether to have SmartMeters.
Since 2006, PG&E has been installing the wireless meters, which the utility says will allow customers to more carefully monitor their energy use, under a program approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.
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Critics contend the wireless devices pose a health hazard because of electromagnetic emissions and make customers’ personal information vulnerable to hackers.
PG&E has installed thousands of the meters in San Luis Obispo County, where residents continually raise concerns about their effects at local government meetings.
The PUC, which has refused to back off from the SmartMeter program, said in December that the electromagnetic emissions from the meters are far below the levels of many commonly used wireless devices, a council report said.
Seaside City Manager Ray Corpuz said he didn’t know what the city’s next move will be to enforce the ban, which runs until Dec. 31. PG&E is scheduled to begin installing the meters in Seaside this month, he said.
Corpuz said trying to enforce the ordinance through the courts “could cost the city a lot of money.”
Mayor Felix Bachofner said, “We have been getting a ton of feedback on this thing from our constituents ... and we feel we can make a difference.”
The Monterey City Council earlier this week took a softer stance. The council unanimously approved a resolution asking PG&E to allow customers to “opt out” of getting SmartMeters.
PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said the utility is trying to do better customer outreach as it goes into areas with the new meters. “We are making sure we are responsive to the issues and questions they have,” he said.
The effect of local moratoriums would be up to the PUC, which has “ultimate oversight over the program,” Smith said.
The commission has rejected appeals by San Francisco and SmartMeters are going into the city’s Marina district. PG&E continued to install the meters in Watsonville despite the city’s ban, a council report said.
Smith said 7.7 million meters have been installed out of 10 million, and the program should be wrapped up next year.
As for allowing customers to “opt out,” Smith said PG&E is evaluating how much that would cost and other factors. “We are evaluating options,” he said.
Bachofner said there is a growing body of evidence about the possible health risks posed by the wireless meters. And he said there is no question about the data privacy concerns raised by meter opponents.
The mayor said opposition likely grew as the meters became more widespread. “I think the shortcomings are becoming clear to people,” he said.