Austin, Texas – Residents rally to opt out of smart metering

Residents rally to opt out of smart metering

Smithville residents attending a recent citizen-led meeting at Central School were vocal in their desire to opt out of having a smart meter, which would monitor water and electrical use, installed at their home.Those against the digital utility meters at the Nov. 5 forum were even more adamantly against the move after two speakers gave presentations on potential health hazards.

There is no opt-out for this project, but attendees want to change that. After the meeting, two women were passing around a petition to present to city council. The idea for the forum came to Jim Kellar and Kelly Holt over coffee.

Residents rally to opt out of smart metering photo

“I read a story about billing in San Antonio — double and triple billing,” said Kellar, of a digital meter installment in that town. “I know that there is a lot of concern about this technology and the controversy in San Antonio. Several states have opt-out programs. I wanted people to hear about this.”

Citizens received a mailed notice from Kellar that listed the problems with the meters, including increases to bill, time of use billing in which people are billed at a higher rate during high usage times, fire hazards, the potential of cyber attacks to the electrical grid, personal information being stolen and remote disconnect. The flyer reads, “Let’s explore a smart meter opt-out for Smithville,” while inviting property owners to discuss the meters and their impact.

After hearing Laura Pressley, of Austin, and Sheila Hemphill, of Brady, speak out against the meters and the mesh net system, the audience showed concern about the health ramifications of the wireless emissions, both in strength and number of times a month they occur. Smart meters were installed in both of their towns around six years ago, and both cited medical studies claiming health problems.

Pressley said that the emissions could affect the body in many ways, including anemia, damaged blood cells, restless leg syndrome, severe headaches and sleeping problems.

Hemphill, owner of Help Yourself Wellness, which uses low frequency emissions for health benefits, has a website that says “the greatest polluting element in the earth’s environment is the proliferation of electromagnetic fields,” a quote by Nobel Prize nominee and orthopedic surgeon Robert Becker.

“We are 15 years into this technology,” said Hemphill. “It can take years to accumulate. This sort of energy did not exist until this technology.”

She said, “City council was not given information on what this technology represents.”

Pressley, physicist and chemist of Austin who worked for the semiconductor company, which installs the chips in the meters, said Austin incurred additional costs of $60 million when the city upgraded their software for the time of use billing. Councilmen Scott Saunders assured that Smithville, as a Level 4 trauma city is exempt, and the rates will also be flat.

“You have wireless equipment in your home,” said Pressley. “You can choose to cut them off. With smart meters, you don’t have a choice.”

Pressley also urged attendees to ask their city council if the meters made by Landis-Gyr were UL rated, a tested standard of safety. She said they were not.

Energy service Ameresco representatives Mike McGill and Subroto Gunawan and City Manager Robert Tamble were also invited to speak, but only days before the event. The Ameresco reps did not have a formal presentation prepared, but answered questions.

The city manager was out of town in training, but four city councilmembers did attend and answered questions.


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