Man claims OUC’s smart meter made him sick, files federal lawsuit
ORLANDO, Fla. —
An Orange County man claims OUC’s smart meter, which thousands of residents have on their homes, gave him major medical problems and he’s filed a federal lawsuit.
“It leads to a lot of problems,” said disabled veteran Bill Metallo. “I’m looking at a lot of skin problems, sleepless nights.”
Metallo lists his medical problems in the federal lawsuit he just filed against OUC over the smart meters.
The digital meters are designed to make procedures easier for the company, and OUC has been installing them at thousands of Orlando homes over the past few years.
After the smart meter was installed at Metallo’s home, he chose to opt out of the program. The company returned his analog meter but then added a $95 enrollment free and a $13 monthly fee.
OUC said the fees were approved by Florida’s Public Service Commission, but Metallo claims it violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“I want them to stop doing what they’re doing, it’s illegal what they’re doing,” said Metallo.
The smart meters have been criticized statewide in the past, and some claim they’re linked to cancer.
“Smart meters are emitting electromagnetic radiation that we can’t see or smell,” said biologist Diana Schultz.
OUC said it couldn’t comment about the pending lawsuit in Metallo’s case, but denied the meters cause medical issues.
“It’s fact. It’s proven,” said Metallo.
The utilities company released a statement to WFTV about the smart meter program:
“On the issue itself, the Public Service Commission has approved our fee structure for having a non-standard meter read. There is a cost for OUC to manually read the old meters which includes staff time and fuel. Less than one-tenth of one percent of all OUC customers contacted us about keeping their old meters, and of those only 125 out of more than 229,000 have decided to opt-out. There are many benefits of digital meters including the ability for customers to learn more about their daily energy use through an online customer dashboard, instead of having to open a bill at the end of their monthly billing cycle.”
LANSING – The futuristic-looking device in John Holeton’s hand chattered noisily as he waved it over people’s smartphones, generating gasps from the growing crowd gathered at the Anderson House Office Building in downtown Lansing. The device, a high-frequency analyzer, buzzed to indicate pulsed radiation coming from the phones, Holeton, a retired industrial electrician from Shelby Township and part of a group called Warriors for American Revolution, told the crowd. He said the high-tech “smart meters” increasingly used by power companies to measure energy usage and broadcast that information to utilities also emit radiation that could be unhealthy. And that’s why he and dozens of other residents crowded two committee rooms Tuesday night to slam the smart meters as a health and privacy risk and to ask lawmakers to intervene. “No one is representing us and protecting us, and that’s why everyone’s here,” Holeton, 64, said before the start of a state House Oversight Committee hearing on the issue.
Committee Chairman Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills convened Tuesday’s hearing to gather public testimony on the issue, though there is no bill before the committee. A parade of residents from across the state took the microphone to tell lawmakers stories of health problems they believe were caused by the meters. The committee heard roughly five hours of testimony on the issue, which McMillin at the end said could be “a good catalyst” for the issue to be addressed next session. McMillin drew applause from the crowd when he grilled representatives of both DTE Energy and Consumers Energy over whether the new meters were necessary. Noting that some states had banned the smart meters, McMillin told a DTE representative, “Somehow, the sky isn’t falling for them. It just seems like this is possible.” Numerous utilities, including the Lansing Board of Water & Light, are turning more and more to smart meters as a way to reduce costs because they lessen the need for meter readers and as a way to generate more accurate bills for customers. Utility officials also said the new meters would allow them to remotely turn power off or on to more quickly respond to customers’ needs. This week, the Lansing BWL is wrapping up installation of 140 smart meters in East Lansing’s Bailey neighborhood. If the city-owned utility deems the $200,000 pilot program successful, they’ll install them for all customers over the next three years. But the meters, which emit radio frequency (RF) fields as they send information on energy usage to utility companies, have been controversial. Some residents are concerned about health risks associated with RF fields, about having private information transmitted through the air, and about the meters interfering with home electronics or healthcare devices. The Michigan Public Service Commission requires utilities to allow customers to opt out of the smart meters, though the utilities can charge customers an up-front and a monthly fee to not have the new technology. The American Cancer Society says RF radiation is “a possible carcinogen,” but “it isn’t clear what risk, if any there might be from living in a home with a smart meter.” It says people get more RF exposure from cell phones than smart meters. Mike Byrne, legislative liaison for the MPSC, told the committee the MPSC had found the health risk to be “insignificant,” and said the commission had no authority to decide the technology utility companies want to use. McMillin scoffed. “Really you could,” he told Byrne. “If it was unsafe and you guys thought it was unsafe, you would intervene, right?” “We could try,” Byrne said. “There’s nothing explicitly in state law that allows that.” Bob Sitkauskas, general manager of DTE’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure program, told the committee the new meters were also necessary because the old analogue meters are no longer manufactured, a point repeated later in the hearing by Byrne. As part of scheduled equipment upgrades, the utilities will install new digital meters even for those who opt out and pay the fee, but officials said those customers would receive digital meters that don’t broadcast usage data. But McMillin drew more applause when he told the utilities “we wouldn’t be having this” if utilities weren’t a monopoly. “If you had competitors,” McMillin told representatives from Consumers Energy, “one of them might offer the analogue meter.” And that was one of the biggest complaints from those who drove in for the hearing, that the meters were being forced upon them. “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is being destroyed,” Mike Mullen, a 58-year-old Harrison Township resident, said before the hearing.