MPSC SLEIGHT OF HAND

January 26, 2012, Revised February 3rd Sadly we must report that our earlier optimism concerning the investigation of ‘smart’ meters by the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) may not have been warranted.  We thought there was hope they would give us a fair and transparent review of our smart meter complaints.  After all nine city governments had asked for a proper investigation and eight of those governments had specifically mentioned they wanted the health effects thoroughly considered.   Health effects have been a big part of the public uproar.

Yet a careful re-reading of the Commission’s Order of January 12th indicates that health effects were not included in the list of issues to be considered.  And we think we have discovered the reason for this.

The Commission actually defines the scope of its Order by the way in which it summarizes the concerns expressed by the nine city governments.  Instead of an accurate restatement of what the cities are all asking for we see this curious language: “investigate the safety of the physical attachment of a smart meter to a residential dwelling house”.  None of the nine city governments used such a phrase.  Rather nearly all of them had specifically asked for a review of the “health and safety” issues related to smart meters.  The use by the various cities of both the words “health” and “safety” clearly indicates that, in the minds of city officials, these two words mean two different things.

The directions in the Order to the various utilities, and to its own staff when preparing the final report, refer back to the issues as (inaccurately) phrased in the summary of what the cities requested.

(The above two paragraphs were added at the suggestion of one of our members to add additional clarity)

Nearly all of the nine city governments also asked the Commission to put a hold on any further deployments until the Commission could complete a thorough review.  But there is no hold – and the utilities have made it plain they are going forward full speed.  By the time this investigation winds up in June DTE alone might well have installed another half million meters.  If the Commission thought there was any real chance they were going to find the privacy or safety protections inadequate would they not want to prevent any more damage being done until their investigation is complete?

The key to why health effects were excluded from the present study we think is to be found in a study the Commission ordered from its own staff last summer culminating in a report dated August 3rd, 2011.  The report was titled “REPORT ON THE IMPACT OF RADIO FREQUENCY EMISSIONS FROM SMART METERS”.  A link to the full text of that report may be found at the end of this article.

The report concludes with the statement “Staff has concluded that RF emissions from smart meters have been shown to be in compliance with FCC standards and these standards are sufficient to protect people from potential adverse health and safety effects.”  Since the Commission has already made up its mind on this issue they apparently believe there is no point revisiting it now.

The report states “Commission staff chose to include publications from sources it considered to be the most credible.”  This turned out to mean only 6 sources and 2 of those were industry trade associations whose bias is well known. Another failing of this report was that the staff people involved were evidently unwilling to sign their names to it.  This is an issue of responsibility and accountability.  It also means that the public has no way to judge the particular qualifications of the people making these judgments about which sources are “credible” and which are not.

Though there is a rich literature of respectable scientists who have published in professional journals against electromagnetic radiation at non-thermal levels, the staff chose to ignore all of these.   Two of the non industry affiliated sources used  – the World Health Organization (WHO) and Lawrence Berkley National Lab made cautious statements indicating that the possibility of non-thermal health effects could not be ruled out and merited further study. WHO moreover classified electromagnetic radiation as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

Staff’s conclusion includes the words “and safety effects”.  A careful reading of their entire study would show that the question of safety – to the extent that includes issues other than the health effects – was nowhere addressed at all.  A proper consideration of safety effects might include the risk of meters starting fires and the risk that the radiation from the meters might interfere with pacemakers or other sensitive medical equipment.

But there is yet another aspect of this report that is troubling.  The introduction stated that the report was “written in response to health and safety questions from the public concerning RF emissions from wireless smart meters.”  Yet the report was never released to the public, or to those of us who had raised the health and safety questions, nor was it posted on the MPSC’s own website.   We were not aware that staff was working on any such study at the time it was taking place and there was certainly no opportunity for input to the process, or for challenging any of the sources used.

This was in no way an open or transparent process.  The only reason we are in possession of the report now or even know that a report existed was because DTE provided it to the City of Madison Heights recently and the city put it on their public website.

So where does that leave us?  The Commission has now laid out an open process, but that process is to exclude health effects and there will be a powerful temptation to not find any privacy faults in the system because so much money will have been expended already.

Finally the Commission is calling into question its own jurisdiction and its own expertise, implying that it will almost certainly defer to the industry and issue no order that will change anything at the end of the day.

We strongly suspect that unless we can find some way to get the courts or the legislature to intervene, that nothing good will come from this investigation.  We understand that State House Representative Thomas McMillan(R) of Rochester Hills is drafting opt-out legislation.

To read the full report of Commission staff from last August, click here.

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10 thoughts on “MPSC SLEIGHT OF HAND

  1. Even if all investigative procedures conclude that there is no immediate nor long term physical danger to consumers, I feel there indeed will be a danger. My rights to privacy will be invaded. I abhor such invasion.

    DTE has not had any problem that I am aware of that prevents them from billing me for my electrical usage nor receiving my payment on time each month through electronic funds transfer. I do not see a need to change my meter. I do not see where the cost to do so would be justified. I do not want to pay for a new meter, I do not want a new meter at all.

    • Kathleen McGee, former ciredtor of the Maine Toxics Action Coalition. “Our issue with the PUC is quite simple, in order for them to meet their statutory obligation to ensure safe and reasonable service; they need to first make a determination on these issues of concern. In order to do this, they need to fully evaluate the science and hear from the public, both of which they have repeatedly refused to do.”In one of its Op-Out Investigation rulings, the PUC allowed electricity consumers to Opt Out of the smart meter program and retain their old analog meter but it also required these consumers to pay Central Maine Power Company an initial fee of $40 plus a $12 monthly fee for this option. “Endangerment, immoral, illegal, unethical, irresponsible or just plain wrong; call it what you will, but when citizens are ordered by the PUC to pay-up in order to avoid real or perceived harms to health and privacy, this is the antithesis of good government. In fact, it’s good government gone very, very bad,” said Ed Friedman, lead Plaintiff in the case.Shortly after the PUC issued their first Order in the Opt-Out Investigation, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (WHO/IARC) issued a report that identified as a “possible carcinogen” the type of non-ionizing radiation emitted by smart meters, cell phones and other wireless devices. This puts smart meter radiation in the same category used by WHO/IARC for identifying other potential carcinogens, such as DDT, benzofuran, chlordane, chloroform, 4,4 -Diaminodiphenyl ether, diesel fuel, 2,6 Dinitrotoluene, gasoline, lead, Polybrominated biphenyls, styrene, Toluene diisocyanates, and 4-Vinylcyclohexene.“Concerns about the new technology are only increasing and Congressional hearings have been called for,” says Friedman, “It will be some time before this issue is settled. Meanwhile, we encourage ratepayers not to sanction this uncontrolled and PUC mandated experiment on their health and constitutional rights, but instead to keep their existing (electro-mechanical) meters and not pay the extra fee. That sends a clear message to CMP and the PUC.”

    • I am so relieved to have found this site. Im here in Maine and our immouncty just began installing the new meters. I had symptoms before I realized it was on my home as well as most of you. The symptoms seem to be changing or revolving and include, sleeplessness, anxiety, feeling of being amped up through my body, tingling in limbs, dry mouth, feeling sick to my stomach, but never vomitting, heat on my facial skin, twitches, headaches, twinges of pain randomly throughout my body. I chose not to opt out we did recieve a notice fortunately, but I just couldnt have imagined this NIGHTMARE! It’s been almost two weeks and Im going to call CMP(our company provider) and complain to get my old meter back. I feel so hopeless, defeated that smart meters will be all around me causing problems. I have increased sensitivity to wireless networks now and well my job requires me to use a wireless laptop for hours daily People who dont know how bad this feels, just dont understand! and for those who are involved with the installation, it is all about $$$. It always is.Im so sorry to those of you whose lives have been turned upside down in this unbelieveable nightmare. How can we promote more awareness ? Fight this battle? People who dont feel the effects right now, are still experiencing radiation but their bodies just arent in tune with their experiences like ours are. It’s a survival mechanism we have like wildlife have and there is nowhere to run

  2. Has anyone in your group filed formal written complaints with your PUC? There is usually a written process and response that is described on the website of your PUC. In Maine we have what is called a ’10-Person Complaint (no cost to file), where a list of greviences with attached references to research material etc. is filed via mail and/or via online filing system at their web site. If you do not formalize the complaints they are much easier to dismiss and you will not be able to get this the state Supreme Court to ask for an immediate moritorium on the rollout.

    • Thank you so much for your 3 posts today. They help to keep us all on our toes! Yes, we are looking at all these options, informal complaints, formal complaints, a possible “Petition to Intervene”, winning over city councils, encouraging our state legislators to act, and, of course, continuing efforts to educate the public. We are finding that even a little information can make the difference between someone “accepting an upgrade” from the utility company, and someone who is angry enough to start fighting back!

  3. Another point I wanted to mention is that your city’s should immediately inact city Ordinances to stop the rollout of the smart meters. I have some model Ordinances from other states that they could use. Please contact me if you are interested.

  4. State Public utility commissions act, have the authority, and are run similar to state district courts. Find the PUC Rules to your MI PUC, probably online at their website. Our PUC in Maine did exactly what your MI PUC has done and that is to open an investigation into consumer complaints without including the complaint concerns i.e. regarding health, privacy, or interference with medical devices . When the PUC finally closed the alleged investigation, they issued a PUC Order to the Utilities (to provide an opt-out option). The people who filed Complaints then filed a Motion For Reconsideration of those Complaints. Of course the MPUC denied them. Once the PUC denied the motions, the complaintants could then move up to the next highest court, the state Supreme Judicial court and file an Appeal of the PUC’s decision to be heard by the Supreme Court. Currently the Appeal with be heard in March or April. You can also do this in your state. If you want a copy of the Appeal that was filed, please e-mail me dnwilkins@aol.com and I will send you a copy (good legal Brief by excel. attorney, that you could use as a model) Stick with it, many others in states 42 states are fighting smart meters and a national effort is now being put together that you could join.

    • Dear CPUC:PG E’s smart meter opt-out option is more than uaifnr for ratepayers who have paid in excess of 2.2 billion dollars for the “smart meter” program which they never asked for, and which most did not want in the first place. The “smart meter” program is designed primarily to save PG E money – by firing meter readers, by controlling energy usage for maximum profit, and by extorting money out of ratepayer victims who do not care to suffer dangerous and possibly fatal radiation exposure from these unregulated devices. If the “smart meter” is genuinely safe, why do PG E and the CPUC not call for an independent testing and evaluation of the “smart meter”? PG E OPT-OUT PLAN: $270 up-front fee to opt out, a $14 monthly surcharge and a yet-to-be determined exit fee if you move. This is absolute extortion. These amounts never will be paid, and it is foolish to think otherwise. PG E has not seen the light of day, has not suddenly become compassionate; rather, it is being forced to offer an opt-out provision of the “smart meter” program, but it has gamed that provision. The proposed costs of opting out are prohibitive, which is PG E’s intention, an attempt to stop the widespread and growing opposition to “smart meters”. A SENSIBLE USER-FRIENDLY OPT-OUT OPTION: No charge to keep your existing analog meter. No PG E finagling of rates to customers choosing this option. PG E can estimate usage based on the prior year, or customers can self-read monthly. A meter reader can check twice a year so that any underage or overage can be adjusted. Better yet, do not throw thousands of meter readers out of work. Let them keep their jobs, and let them continue to read meters. For any customer who requests it, PG E should restore the analog meter at PG E’s expense, as soon as possible. Additionally, PG E should be required to pay reparations to ratepayer-victims who suffered ill health, fires, explosions, damage to existing electronics and/or theft of personal information due to forced “smart meter” installation. Ratepayers should not have to pay for PG E venality. There should be an immediate and permanent ban on further installation of wireless “smart meters,” and a public service campaign to inform consumers of opt-out options. Finally, no more delays in evidentiary hearings on “smart meters” should be tolerated. Let’s get the truth, not PG E profit-driven fabrications. Sincerely,Farrell WinterSanta Rosa CA

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