Legal questions about smart meters remain unanswered

Legal questions about smart meters remain unanswered

Sterling Heights officials say they’re still waiting for a response regarding a request for a legal opinion relating to the authority of a Michigan home rule city to regulate Advanced Metering Infrastructure, also known as smart meters. (Sean Delaney – Advisor & Source)

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In March 2015, the Sterling Heights City Council adopted a resolution requesting assistance from State Rep. Henry Yanez (D-Sterling Heights) in procuring a legal opinion from Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on questions relating to the authority of a Michigan home rule city to regulate Advanced Metering Infrastructure, also known as smart meters.

Nearly a year later, they’re still waiting for a response.

“To date, the city has not been notified that the State Attorney General has rendered an opinion to Rep. Yanez,” City Attorney Jeff Bahorski wrote in an email on Jan. 6.

According to Bahorski, it’s unlikely that the city would be informed directly about the opinion, as “attorney general opinions are typically issued only in response to requests by members of the Michigan House or Senate.”

“Mr. Yanez submitted the request to the State Attorney General and will be the recipient of the opinion, not the city,” Bahorski said. “However, the city communicates regularly with Rep. Yanez on state issues impacting municipalities and is confident that he will provide notice when the Attorney General has issued an opinion in response to his request.”

Unlike traditional electric meters that merely record power use – and then must be read in person once a month by a meter reader – smart meters measure consumption in real time. By being networked to computers in electric utilities, the new meters can signal people or their appliances to take certain actions, such as reducing power usage when electricity prices spike.

But the interactivity that makes smart meters attractive also makes them vulnerable to hackers, because each meter essentially is a computer connected to a vast network that some argue will be used to monitor residents’ activities.

Some residents have also argued that the devices represent a health hazard, noting that other communities have reportedly banned the meters after residents who had the devices installed became ill.

Based on these concerns, the City Council voted in January 2012 to institute a moratorium “until such time that an option to refuse the installation of such meters is given to all residents with or without cause, for any reason whatsoever.”

“This moratorium, as well as others adopted in many other Michigan municipalities, prompted the Michigan Public Service Commission to issue an order directing the utilities to provide information regarding their plans for smart meter deployment, including whether an opt-out program would be offered,” City Manager Mark Vanderpool said after the moratorium was adopted. Continued… at:

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