August 21, 2012 the Texas PUC held a Public Forum on Smart Meter Issues. Attendance was likely greater than expected since scrambling to find 2 appropriate overflow rooms delayed the 10 am meeting. I do not know the actual number in attendance, but I believe the main room held 200 people. This meeting was the first of its kind at the PUC, one where the entire day was only for public discussions of issues pertaining to the deployment and installations of Smart Meters. Texans drove in from all around. Some places I heard of people coming from was DFW and Houston areas, San Antonio, Waco, and the farthest I personally heard was a coalition from Harlingen (south of Corpus Christi) who drove 6 hours each way! This meeting also brought a bit of news media attention. Check it out here and here!
Also-Archived Live Broadcast is available at the Texas House of Representatives webstite:
Please note that you will need Real Player installed to view this broadcast.
Background of Smart Meter Deployment
Smart meters began being deployed as far back as 2007, although, I believe it got a ‘shot in the arm’ in 2009 when it has been reported that the Obama Administration apportioned $3.4 Billion dollars which lead to the rollout of 18 million smart meters, 1 million ‘in-home’ energy management displays, and 170,000 smart thermostats, not to mention advanced transformers and load management devices. Since their massive deployment and with the discovery of multiple unflattering issues related to the smart meters, ranging from privacy invasion, security vulnerabilities, negative health effects of all kinds, in hindsight, it seems to me the Texas PUC, as well as their counterparts around the US may have been lax in doing their homework on the readiness of the Smart Meters. In a rush to grab stimulus monies offered by the Obama Administration, no one bothered to thoroughly look in all directions before leaping. This appears to be the unfolding of a fiasco on a national level that will make Solyndra look like a Junior High Prank.
Background on Project 40190-To Determine the Feasibility of an Opt-Out Program
The PUC Forum held August 21, was created in the light of public pressure on the PUC regarding the public’s unhappiness with the fact that they were having smart meters forced on to their homes without any consideration for their wishes concerning the installations. February 10th Representative Dennis Bonner sent a letter to the PUC stating that as the author of the Legislation that encouraged the implementation of Smart Meters and Smart Grid infrastructure, there was no intention that the meters should be mandatorily forced upon people’s houses against their wishes. He also stated that the PUC should correct their ‘oversight’. The Project 40190 was subsequently opened on February 16 to determine the feasibility of an Opt Out program. Many who are ‘fighting this fight’, really know that an Opt Out is not going to be the answer we are looking for. So, we participate in hopes we can build upon this opportunity to actually ban them!
Public Forum Summary
During the August 21st Public Forum there was time given to many of the ‘stakeholders’ as well as the public to speak. The PUC invited several of the presenters that were there this day, including two of the four “Expert” testimonies, Rob Kavet, ScD with EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute), and Robt Hebner, Dir. Center for Electromechanics, UTA. The PUC also took the opportunity to be the first ‘presenter’ of the day. Christine Wright, in charge of “Smart Metering” in the PUC to gave a ‘glossy’ overview of the wonders of smart meters which mirrored much of the ‘PR’ material that they have put out for public consumption. Then someone from the PUC staff read letters submitted in favor of the smart meter technology turned in by three Texas mayors, Mayor Owens of Missouri City, Marcus Night of Lancaster and Mayor Gregory Wortham of Sweetwater, Texas. Mr. Wortham stated how he had experienced significant savings on his electricity bills since utilizing the Time of Day pricing with his electric provider. That’s good for him. Fortunately, he has not suffered the same ill health effects as some Texans have, who would trade saving a little money for having their health back.
Next were comments from 11 ‘Invited Speakers’ who were allotted 5 min. each. Six of the 10 spoke on behalf of the “Pro” Smart Meter crowd. They included representatives from ERCOT, Pecan Street, Texas is Hot, City of Houston, Smolen & Fox, Smolen and Assoc., and “Public-Q-Citizen”-Tom ‘Smitty’ Smith. The remaining four were speaking in favor of a ban, and/or a moratorium. Those four were Thelma Taormina of We the People & 912 Association, Inc, Devvy Kidd, who has filed her formal complaint which was denied on two occasions so far and is currently appealing the 2nd denial, Cindy Carriger with Ban Texas Smart Meters, Sharlyn Wall with Citizen Lobbyist Network and John Marler with the newly formed Texans United Against Smart Meters. However, for those speakers that submitted documentation in addition to their verbal comments, you may access that documentation which has been entered into the public record and can be viewed online by going here. Look for the names of the commentors to access specific persons docs.
The next part of the meeting was a bit disappointing. This portion included 20 minutes for the Transmission & Distribution Utility Co’s which are Oncor, Centerpoint, Tx NM Power, and AEP to respond to the questions posed to them in writing & Filed with the PUC in the record for the Project 40190 the previous Tuesday. Rather than try to answer any of the numerous questions posed to them, the only representative to speak was from Oncor, and he summarized the questions in to 4 basic categories, Security (& Privacy) of the Data, Health Concerns, Access to customers property and Accuracy, to which he gave mostly general answers to, much like you might find on their website if you were to go research the questions on Oncor’s website. The other 3 TDU Representatives only gave their name, and nothing further.
Now Lunch Break!
Immediately following lunch was the Expert Panel presentations. Each panelist was given 15 minutes. Again, the PUC made sure to have half of the experts be on ‘their’ side. The following is a summary of the two experts speaking in favor of more study to be done with the meters in order to determine their safety.
Expert Panel Presentations
Although there were 4 total ‘experts’, I will just focus on the ones who were not invited by the PUC.
Brent Bullock (Technical Consultant) gave an excellent presentation, cautioning the PUC from dismissing to quickly the health complaints from the people. He strongly urged the Commission to commission studies that could get to the ‘root cause’. He stated that we don’t have the exact cause and effect. He suggested they should try to connect actual complainant to the environment and to the exact equipment that is in use, and study the situation within their environment. He stated that there could be many contributing factors creating the environment and that studies should be done at the persons residence where the meter was installed, so they could more accurately assess the variables involved. He went on to say, “Regarding the RF from the Advanced Meter, I don’t expect it to be a problem for the general poplulation, but based on the evidence we’ve heard today, it seems very likely that we have some undiscovered, unexpected complications or exceptions to the rules, and we owe it to the people of Texas….to get to the bottom of this.” He also stated that we have no one taking responsibility which is what needs to happen so we can get to the bottom of these issues. When questioned by Commissioner Anderson, he responded that the software of the meters can be remotely upgraded, and that is something consumers are concerned about. Even if they don’t have a particular capability now, there’s still a possibility that the meters could be outfitted with more invasive technology in the future. He also astutely commented that how could Commissioner Anderson insist that the data still belongs to the customer when the data is being uploaded to a computer and broadcast through the RF, both of which can be breached.
Curtis Bennett, of Canada, (Cheif Sci. Officer, Bldg Contruiction Engineering Tech., …and Thermografix Consulting Corporation), offered his analysis regarding the fact that within the ‘safety codes’ of Canada and the US, during the safety testing for RF and EMF there were missing components of the testing, thus the guidelines are flawed. Neither Canadian standards nor the US take into consideration when looking at the RF emitted by a device to determine its safety, the additional exposures to the person, such as cell phone tower or electrical line emissions. Furthermore, they fail to include that humans have electrical signals and frequencies by which our bodies operate. Therefore, by leaving variables out of the equation, he submits that the standards are not accurately formulated, and thus cannot be relied upon. His testimony was excellent and thought provoking for all. However, rather than try to ‘explain’ it, I recommend that you listen to this YouTube video in which he presents basically the same information he shared at the PUC. This video is even better because you get it in its entirety, along with visual aides.
Public and Stakeholder Comments
After the Expert Testimony there were Public and Stakeholder comments. Unlike earlier only a very small percentage of presenters were ‘pro-smart meter’ (two, I believe were the only in support). There were numerous folks who signed up to speak, 13 of which did so in advance, but there were probably twice as many (at least!) who signed up on that day. In order so that I can get this summary out on the website as soon as possible, I will reserve my comments about the personal testimonies till I have a little time to review my recordings from that day. There were so many things brought out in addition to personal stories of pain and injury due to the smart meters. One woman was even brought to the point of tears when telling about her sons declining condition. Oh, and I believe there was at least two Dr.s’s who spoke in opposition as well.
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