PNM’s ‘smart’ meter proposal meets resistance

PNM’s ‘smart’ meter proposal meets resistance

Posted: Monday, February 27, 2017 8:00 pm | Updated: 7:07 pm, Tue Feb 28, 2017.

Public Service Company of New Mexico says its proposed new remote metering system will save customers $20 million over the next two decades and give consumers an ability to monitor their power use online.

Hearings began Monday before the state Public Regulation Commission on PNM’s plan to install the “smart” meters on more than 500,000 homes in New Mexico. The meters transmit power usage data over mobile networks.

The state Attorney General’s Office and others expressed concerns about the cost of the proposal and whether customers would financially benefit.

James Hallinan, spokesman for Attorney General Hector Balderas, said after the PRC hearing that the office supports modernization but it “should not be paid for on the backs of hardworking New Mexicans, especially where it means fewer jobs in our economy. We are concerned about the cost to consumers that may come along with this modernization.”

An estimated 125 jobs will be affected, PNM said.

Twenty residents from around New Mexico also unanimously objected to the proposal at the PRC hearing. Many raised concerns about the health implications of installing wireless technology in homes, which they say adds significant electromagnetic radiation to the environment and can cause ailments such as headaches, insomnia, rashes and cancer.

Customers could decline to have their meters replaced, but they would be charged a one-time fee and about $47 monthly. In other states, opt-out of such systems has been free.

Many of those who spoke against the proposal said the opt-out option would create an unfair economic penalty.

“My motto has always been, if it is not broken, don’t fix it and we have a system that works,” said Santa Fe resident Mary Ellen Underwood. “I have seen nothing that would suggest that this is in our favor.”

In February 2016, PNM proposed installing advanced metering infrastructure, or smart meters, which allow the company to remotely monitor and track energy usage, rather than sending out meter readers.

The company said it would complete the project by 2019 at a cost of $87.2 million and would recover the money in part by laying off meter readers and charging customers $5 a year for five years for the service. The company said it anticipated spending $5 million for severance packages for laid-off workers.

John McPhee a representative for the Santa Fe Alliance for Public Health and Safety, told a PRC hearing officer, “Wireless technology is the most dangerous technology I have seen for the environment and public since the invention of pesticides.”

Many at the hearing discussed how electromagnetic radiation used for smart meters and cellphones can harm people on the cellular level and spoke about personal experiences with electromagnetic sensitivity. They said the meters operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, creating intrusive surveillance of personal behavior and making utility systems more vulnerable to hacking.

Julia Whitfield, a radon inspector with Safe Living Spaces in Santa Fe, said PNM “should be made to prove that it is safe before they put it onto our homes.”

Ray Sandoval, a spokesman for PNM, said, “Smart meters do not produce any negative health impacts.” He said the type of low-level radio frequency has not been linked to health impacts and would only be on for a few minutes a day.

On Monday, Gerald Ortiz, vice president of regulatory affairs for PNM, faced questions from the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, the New Mexico Industrial Energy Consumers, the New Mexico Coalition for Clean Affordable Energy and others on how the new meters might raise utility bills.

Ortiz was asked if the company could promise that any unexpected costs would not fall on customers — such as a need to update the smart meter technology if it quickly becomes obsolete.

He said PNM would have to do a new cost-benefit analysis at that point, but couldn’t say how it might impact customers.

In an earlier hearing, an expert for the Attorney General’s Office found the proposal could cost customers $12 million, not the savings projected by PNM.

Contact Rebecca Moss at 505-986-3011 or

This story has been amended to reflect the following corrections: It originally gave an incorrect name for PNM’s expert witness. The expert’s name is Gerald Ortiz, vice president of regulatory affairs for PNM, not Pat Ortiz, as reported. The story also incorrectly reported that 125 employees would be laid off as a result of the smart meter program. PNM says that while 125 jobs will be affected by the meter installations, some positions will be lost through attrition and workers may have the chance to apply for vacant positions or be retrained for smart meter-specific tasks.


5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

5 new brain disorders that were born out of the digital age

Tammy Kennon


It’s hard to remember what life was like before we had the internet at our fingertips, smartphones in our pockets, and a laptop on every desk. Today, our brains are racing to adapt to the digital age. Cognitive neuroscientists say all that time we now spend in front of screens has changed the way we read and comprehend. Internet browsing has shortened both our attention spans and our patience. And it’s doing a number on our memories.

In one recent study, researchers asked people a series of trivia questions. Half the group was allowed to use Google, the other half was not. Then, in the second half of the study, all participants were given a new round of easier questions and told they could choose whether or not to use Google to answer them. Sounds pretty standard, right? But those who used the internet in the first round really struggled to answer any questions in the second round while relying solely on their own knowledge and memories. One-third of them didn’t even try, reaching for Google immediately.

“Whereas before we might have tried to recall something on our own, now we don’t bother,” says lead author Dr. Benjamin Storm. “As more information becomes available via smartphones and other devices, we become progressively more reliant on it in our daily lives.”

Of course, the internet has done a lot of good for the world. But considering these revelations, it’s worth highlighting a few of the more recent disorders that experts blame on our digital obsession:

1. Nomophobia

Some people are afraid of spiders. Others, heights. Or maybe you’re unreasonably fearful of clowns. The list of phobias is long, and researchers recently added one more: In 2012, the world learned of “No-Mobile Phobia” or “nomophobia” — the feeling of panic one has upon being separated from one’s phone or tablet. In one U.K. survey, 73 percent of respondents felt panic when they misplaced their phone. And for another 14 percent, that panic spiraled into pure desperation.

But the research into this new fear is so new, it’s hard to say conclusively whether nomophobia is good or bad for our long-term health. “Maybe the nomophobic have higher quality relationships,” Piercarlo Valdesolo speculates at Scientific American. “Maybe the nomophobic have greater life satisfaction. Maybe they have more successful professional lives. Or maybe I should admit this is wishful thinking and try to detach from my device for a while.”

2. Technoference

Our digital obsession might be doing more than just making us feel a bit panicky. It could also be dragging down our relationships. In one 2014 study, more than half of the 143 participants said that tech devices interrupt their leisure time, conversations, and meals with their significant other. The researchers gave these interruptions a name: “technoference.” Not surprisingly, higher technoference correlated directly with lower relationship and life satisfaction. “We would still hypothesize that when partners experience what they perceive to be an interruption due to technology, their views of the relationship are likely to suffer, especially if these interruptions are frequent,” says Brandon T. McDaniel, one of the study’s authors.

But it gets worse. Another study found that smartphones are getting in the way of our sex lives. A stunning 40 percent of participants said they’d postponed sex because of smartphone use. Some admitted to hurrying through sex just to answer a phone call or read a mobile notification. “I’ll be on Facebook and he’ll be on a sporting app while we are both in bed,” one participant admitted, “then we realize that we are literally sitting in bed together, but living in different worlds.”

3. The phantom ring

Fauxcellarm, phantom ringing, and ringxiety are new to our lexicon, thanks to the universal presence of our buzzing, pinging smartphones. These terms refer to the perception that one’s mobile device is ringing (or, more precisely, vibrating) when, in fact, it is not. David Laramie, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, studied this phenomenon for his dissertation. Among the 320 adult mobile phone users he polled, two-thirds of them reported experiencing phantom ringing. That is, they “heard” their phone ringing when it actually wasn’t. “Phantom vibrations are this unusual curiosity that speaks to our connection with our phones,” Laramie toldWired.

What causes this weird phenomenon? “What happens, I think, is that because your clothes are rubbing against your skin, you cause activity in the same receptors, and that activity is just similar enough to the activity caused by a vibrating phone that it triggers the learned association and the perception of a vibrating phone,” Sliman Bensmaia, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago, explains.

4. Cyberchondria

Hypochondria is not a new disorder, but the internet has taken it to the next level. In the broadest definition, cyberchondria refers to people who research and diagnose their own illnesses online. Sure, we’ve probably all done that — in fact, one in three American adults say they have used the internet to self-diagnose. But for some people who might already be prone to hypochondria, this can be detrimental. They get neurotic, and go down a Google wormhole, frantically reading about every dreaded disease that matches their symptoms. A search for abdominal pain brings up diagnoses that include everything from food poisoning to stomach cancer, and soon, the Googler is convinced they’re dying.

This is a huge problem considering that online symptom checkers are wrought with inconsistencies and inaccuracies. More than half the time, the top diagnoses matching a symptom search will be wrong, one study found.

“For a number of reasons, most medical professionals aren’t too happy about the self-diagnosis trend,” writes psychologist Mary Aiken at Quartz. “It isn’t simply a matter of loss of control or an undermining of their authority through online medical searches — it can mess with the diagnostic process, because the results can suggest rare or morbid conditions to patients, which in turn can prompt the appearance of new ‘symptoms.'”

5. Truman Show Delusion

Do you ever have that spooky feeling that someone’s watching you? In the 1998 film The Truman Show, Truman Burbank had that feeling too, only his turned out to be true. Although the film was intended as a sort of dark comedy, it is not funny to those suffering from the Truman Show Delusion, the false perception that their lives are being broadcast. Joel Gold, a professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine, first identified the syndrome in 2003.

Gold is co-author of Suspicious Minds: How Culture Shapes Madness, along with his brother Ian Gold, professor of philosophy and psychiatry at McGill University. They claim the disorder is not a new diagnosis but a fresh twist on persecutory and grandiose illusions. And while it isn’t directly caused by our digital devices, Truman Show Delusion is a product of our overly connected, reality-TV obsessed, social media–driven lifestyles that nurture our most narcissistic qualities.

“Shifts in technology have caused the content of delusions to change over the years,” writes Colin Lecher at Popular Science. “In the 1940s, the Japanese controlled American minds with radio waves; in the ’50s, the Soviets accomplished this with satellites; in the ’70s, the CIA implanted computer chips into people’s brains. And today’s delusion fuel? Take your pick of the Kardashian sisters, then compound it with a dose of the latest NSA revelations. The resulting delusions aren’t real, but they certainly aren’t random: They’re a half-skip past reality, a snippet of the world taken and blown out of proportion.”

Privacy Advocacy Groups Prepare Amicus Brief against Smart Meter Fourth Amendment Violations


Privacy Advocacy Groups Prepare Amicus Brief against Smart Meter Fourth Amendment Violations

Last week I posted an article describing how the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group (NSMA) had filed a brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit requesting a reversal of a lower court dismissal of its alleged Fourth Amendment violation claims. [1] [2]

This week two privacy advocacy groups, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Privacy International, jointly filed a motion with the Court to file an attached amicus brief in support of NSMA on the smart meter-related case. [3] ..

[S]mart meters are different — both quantitatively and qualitatively — from their predecessors, analog meters, in terms of the information captured regarding in-home activities.  The district court failed to recognize this, and in so doing, issued a holding that threatens to erode the sacred privacy of the home. …;

The district court’s holding that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy in aggregate smart meter data as a matter of law threatens the privacy of … 57 million and counting American households. …;

For the reasons outlined herein, this Court should reverse the district court’s flawed conclusion that Americans have no reasonable expectation of privacy in their aggregate smart meter data.

On a personal note, I initially got involved with the smart meter issue over privacy concerns based upon my initial assessment that no utility should have the right to collect personal information from my home in excess of that required to bill for electric service.  Everything I have since learned has tended to confirm that initial belief.

The NSMA brief filed last week and the amicus brief this week in some sense represents a culmination of the latest information on the threats posed by smart meters in the areas of privacy and security.  I have already won the argument on the issues, but utilities, government bureaucrats, and to some extent the courts have simply ignored and/or have refused to accept the results.  Let us hope that changes before it is too late and our Fourth Amendment protections are gone forever.

K T Weaver

For full information, please refer to

Maryland State Bill To Protect Children From Health Effects of the Overuse of Screens Watch Videos

Maryland State Bill To Protect Children From Health Effects of the Overuse of Screens
Watch Videos of the Incredible Testimony Here And Thank You To ALL !

House Bill 866 would require the Maryland department of health to develop and implement health and safety guidelines and procedures for the use of digital devices in public school classrooms. Given the documented myriad of health risks for children, it is critical that schools have age-appropriate guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools.
Watch parents, PTA leaders and Doctors testify about the harmful effects on the eyes, addiction, psychological effects, social effects, physical effects and radiation effects in the videos below.
(Baltimore county represents 150 local PTAs)

Want more details from more experts?
Watch Dr. Lissak’s Lecture on the Psychological Issues related to Screens
Watch the Head of Pediatrics at Hadassah Medical School Discuss the Adverse Effects of Screens
Watch A Lecture on Worldwide Action on Screens and Children featuring Baltimore County Schools

Check out Safe Tech’s past blog posts on the health issues posed by the overuse of screens in schools

MD House Ways and Means Committee to hear classroom digital device safety bill

Posted: 23 Feb 2017 06:57 PM PST

House Ways and Means Committee to hear classroom digital device safety bill
(ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND) The House Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland General Assembly will hear legislation on Friday, February 24th at 1:00 that directs the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to craft safety guidelines for the use of digital devices in Maryland public schools.

Delegate Steven Arentz (R-District 36) has sponsored the legislation, House Bill 866, “Primary and Secondary Education – Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures – Digital Devices.” The bill has 25 co-sponsors and broad bi-partisan support. An identical bill has been cross-filed by Senator Steve Hershey (R-District 36), co-sponsored by Senator James Brochin (D-District 42) and Senator Susan Lee (D-District 16). It has been referred to the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee.

HB866 aims to protect Maryland students from the health hazards that medical experts have for many years associated with daily use of digital devices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has had regulations governing the use of computers for office workers since the 1990s, but schools have no medical oversight.

“More and more experts are proving that there are serious risks to our kids’ health because they spend every day on a digital device,” Delegate Arentz said. “Maryland students need to get the most out of this technology, so we want medical professionals to lead us in a safe direction.”

Researchers have shown that many of the same health issues addressed by OSHA are now facing students who use digital devices every day in school. Retinal damage from blue light emissions, myopia, sleeplessness, muscle and joint pain, headaches, blurred vision, obesity, anxiety and addiction have all been associated as health risks facing students because of daily digital device use.
The bill has substantial support from the state’s medical community.The Maryland State Medical Society (MedChi), which represents all of Maryland’s doctors, voted to support the legislation at their most recent meeting, according to Gene Ransom, MedChi’s Executive Director. One of the co-sponsors, Delegate Clarence Lam, is a physician who leads Johns Hopkins University’s preventative medicine residency program.

Believed to be the first of its kind, the Maryland bill also has the attention of several large health groups across the country. The nation’s leading vision health organization, Prevent Blindness, supports the Maryland bill. Senior Vice President Jeff Todd wrote a letter commending Maryland’s “efforts to ensure children’s vision, eye health and safety is at the forefront of any statewide effort related to childhood development.”

Optometrists from around the country have also sent support to the General Assembly urging passage of this legislation, including J. Scott Sikes, O.D., a NC Optometric Society Education Trustee and Dr. Geoffrey Goodfellow, OD, FAAO, an Associate Professor at the Illinois College

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of Optometry and an attending optometrist in the Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Service of the Illinois Eye Institute.
“Protecting eyesight when it comes to the progressive use of digital technology and screen time addiction in young people is our number one priority” said Justin Barrett, CEO of Healthe, a company that creates products “to reduce exposure to harmful digital UV and High-Energy Visible (HEV) blue light emitted from such devices.” “We hope the lawmakers will pass this important legislation to set a precedent for other states in the protection of all students.”

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, PhD, LCSW-R, a nationally recognized addiction expert and author of Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids, writes: “I commend the screen safety effort in Maryland and strongly encourage the General Assembly to pass HB 866 and SB 1089 to mandate medically sound classroom regulations.”

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) is a national advocacy organization with nearly 50,000 members, including 1,000 in Maryland. The group has asked Maryland lawmakers to give HB866 their “complete endorsement.” In a letter to the Ways and Means Committee, CCFC Executive Director, Josh Golin, writes, “It is critical that medical professionals develop clear, research-based, age-appropriate guidelines for the use of digital devices in schools.”

Citing its 30-page research document released in August, Parents Across America (PAA) is another national advocacy group endorsing HB866/SB1089. PAA notes that it “has prepared extensive materials about the harmful effects on children’s academic, intellectual, emotional, physical and social development when digital devices are misused and overused… We applaud the Maryland lawmakers who have responded quickly and appropriately to this critical situation.”

Maryland parents have rallied to support the classroom screen safety bill as well. Leslie Weber, Co-Founder of Advocates for Baltimore County Schools (ABCSchools), the largest public education advocacy coalition in the county, says, “This bill is greatly needed, especially in Baltimore County, where one of the nation’s largest 1:1 digital initiatives is underway. Children as young as 5 are in front of screens most days — objective guidelines from the DHMH are needed to ensure the safety of these students.”

Janis Sartucci, a member of the Parents’ Coalition of Montgomery County, said, “This bill is long overdue. Our children need to be protected from a variety of health risks that could affect them for a lifetime. We must get DHMH involved to be sure kids aren’t hurt.”

Queen Anne’s County parent, Cindy Eckard, has testified and written extensively about the need for medical oversight of classroom digital devices. Her Op Eds have appeared in both the Washington Post and the Baltimore Sun. During a recent radio interview Ms. Eckard told WBAL Radio reporter Robert Lang, “Of course we want our kids to master technology; we just don’t want them harmed in the process.”

Ms. Eckard also noted that teachers have a legal duty of care to protect students from known hazards in the classroom. “This bill will help teachers too, giving them statewide, uniform safety guidelines, from medical professionals and specialists at DHMH.”


Links to medical research; recorded General Assembly testimony; a screen safety press conference held in Annapolis with actress/comedian Paula Poundstone, and detailed information regarding the legislation are available on the website or email Ms. Eckard at
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