Inside and outside of Oakland

Smart meters in Michigan: Opposition continues over new order

  Opponents of electric service smart meters say they'll likely appeal a Michigan Public Service Commission order that allows DTE Energy to continue to install smart meters and to charge monthly fees for people who want their transmitting capabilities disabled.
  "You're not paying for a benefit, you're paying to avoid a harm," says David Sheldon from Ferndale. "That's what we find objectionable."
  Sheldon and others oppose the installation of the digital smart meters, arguing the radio frequencies they use cause health problems.
  But in its ruling Wednesday, the MPSC said utility companies, DTE in this case, can continue replacing analog meters with digital smart meters.
  The MPSC said the utility can charge a $67 fee up front and $9.80 a month to customers who choose to have them disabled to cover the costs of having them manually read.
  Michigan utilities are in different stages of providing or testing smart meters. The advantage to them is that it eliminates the need for someone to physically read the meters, eliminates estimated utility bills, more accurately pinpoint the causes of power outages, and improves efficiency, according to information from the MPSC.
  The MPSC also addresses safety of the smart meters in its frequently-asked-questions section:
  "The scientific and medical evidence to date suggests that exposure to RF fields does not cause adverse health effects, provided that exposure is within the safety guidelines. The Unites States federal government and the international health community, including the World Health Organization, plus numerous independent studies have deemed low-level radio frequency to be completely safe. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) limits for radio transmitters of all types, including smart meters. These limits also include a prudent margin of safety. Even so, smart meters operate far below the limit."
  Safety is at the heart of opposition and lawsuits over the installation of the meters.
  Sheldon said he refused to have a smart meter installed at his house.
"I refused and put a padlock on the meter housing," he said.
  Dominic Cusumano, with property in Addison Township and Macomb County, replaced his smart meter with an analog meter because he contends the smart meter adversely affected his wife's health.
  A lawsuit between Cusumano and DTE is pending in Oakland County Circuit Court.
  Last summer, the Oakland County Board of Commissioners approved a resolution in favor of letting people opt out of the smart meter installation after a lengthy public comment session.
  In February, state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, introduced legislation that prohibits utilities from refusing service to people who don't want the smart meters.
  Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette also opposes passing the costs of the smart meter program on to customers, as DTE seeks to do through a broader rate case pending.
  "We're still reviewing whether we're going to appeal this particular order," Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said. "We're still involved in challenging the costs of the smart meter program.
  "We're continuing to oppose passing any new costs to consumers because the utilities haven't proven the smart meters will save money," she said. "It doesn't make sense to charge consumers for unproven technology. We don't think consumers should be charged a fee if they want to opt out of the technology.

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