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February 16th, 2012 – Representative Tom McMillin (R) of Rochester introduced today, along with 8 co-sponsors, proposed smart meter opt-out legislation in the Michigan House of Representatives.  The bill, known as H.B. 5411, contains a whole series of prohibitions against the electric utility companies of the state with regard to what are termed “advanced meters” and directs the Michigan Public Services Commission (MPSC) to enforce these prohibitions.

The bill prohibits any such utility from (a) requiring a customer to accept an “advanced meter”, (b) from refusing to remove one if already installed, or (c) from “imposing any disincentive on a customer for not accepting the installation or use of an ‘advanced meter’.”

For those customers who do accept an “advanced meter”, the bill would prohibit the utility from collecting data from the meter more often than once per month “unless requested by the customer”, and would further prohibit the giving of “any meter use data from an advanced meter to any person other than the utility.”

The bill has been referred to the Energy and Technology Committee.  We are hopeful the Committee will, after due consideration, forward this bill to the full House for an up or down vote.  If the bill should survive all hurdles and become law, we think some powerful protections will have been put in place to protect the property rights and the Fourth Amendment privacy rights of Michigan homeowners.  We very much appreciate the effort Tom McMillin has put forward to get this bill drafted and to muster the support of so many of his colleagues to co-sponsor.

A provision we would very much like to have seen in this bill would be a “community opt-out” as well as an individual opt-out, at least for those communities where smart meters have not already been installed.  The issue is that an individual who opts out only gains partial protection from the possible electro magnetic effects upon his or her health.  He is still immersed in a sea of such radio radiation produced by all the smart meters of his immediate neighbors.  Only a community opt-out, or a statewide ban, would provide real protection against layering more and more radiation on homes that are already bombarded with radio and tv signals, cell phone tower radiation, and WiFi radiation from all the homes in the area.

Two other provisions we don’t see in the bill are a mandate that the MPSC conduct a proper investigation of the health effects of the meters, or a moratorium on further installs pending the results of such an investigation.  We know that the current investigation by MPSC has, despite the pleas of nine city governments, been designed to exclude health effects and to make no provision for halting or slowing ongoing installations.

The bill defines what “advanced meter” means.  We would like to have seen a definition that would encompass all the variations of ‘smart’ metering that a utility might install – so that the utility not be able to escape the requirements of this proposed law just by, for example, turning off the radio feature, while still tracking granular usage data to be uploaded by different means.  We are recommending that a definition be made that is more along the lines of that published by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Still this bill is a start – a big first step.  Our hats are off to Rep. McMillin and his eight Republican colleagues who co-sponsored.  They seem to have focused on the property rights and Fourth Amendment issues. We do not see smart meters as a partisan issue, however, and would hope that Democrats in the House might introduce their own proposal that would broaden the final legislation to include more focus on the health effects and possible remedies for that.

To read the actual proposed legislation, click here.