Judge allows CMP discrimination case to proceed
A Bowdoinham man diagnosed with cancer claims CMP is discriminating against him by not waiving smart meter opt-out fees
Infinite Scroll EnabledWMTW News 8
PORTLAND, Maine —
A judge has denied Central Maine Power’s motion to dismiss a disability and discrimination case over smart meters, allowing it to proceed in court.
Ed Friedman, of Bowdoinham, filed the suit in July 2020, claiming CMP was discriminating against people whose conditions may be worsened by the radiation emitted from smart meters by charging a fee to opt out of them and use an analog meter instead. Friedman’s lawyers say he has lymphoplasmacytic lymphoma, an incurable form of cancer, and that his doctor recommends he shouldn’t be exposed to any excess radiation in his home.Advertisement
The suit was filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The FHA protects against discrimination in housing services, and the Rehab Act prohibits discrimination by recipients of federal funding. CMP received $96 million from the federal government for its smart meter project.
CMP said the lawsuit should be dismissed because Friedman did not sufficiently allege discrimination, that he couldn’t relitigate the PUC’s determination that smart meters are safe from 2016 and that an opt-out fee is a valid policy the PUC requires CMP to implement. CMP also argues its opt-out fee isn’t discriminatory because it charges the same amount to everyone.
Judge Jon Levy struck down CMP’s motion to dismiss on Wednesday, writing, “if Friedman’s factual allegations are true—as I must assume on a motion to dismiss—then CMP’s refusal to waive the opt-out fee may constitute discrimination under all three statutes.”
Friedman has been without utility service since 2016, when he initially asked CMP to waive its opt-out fee. When it didn’t, he refused to pay the charge, and CMP disconnected his power. Levy wrote that Friedman alleges he can’t have the same enjoyment of CMP services as people who don’t have a medical condition because if he uses a smart meter, he pays the normal rate but risks his health. If he uses an analog meter, he has peace of mind but an added fee.
“Under this view, it is the plausible risk to Friedman’s health, not a probable physical toll, that makes a fee waiver “necessary” to afford him equal access to CMP’s services,” Levy wrote.
“If CMP is going to do business in Maine, they need to follow the laws of the land – including those protecting their disabled ratepayers” said Friedman. “We are very happy with this well-reasoned decision and look forward to moving forward on this crucial matter”
With Levy’s ruling, the case is allowed to proceed. CMP has until April 14 to submit an answer to the original complaint.