(Article updated January 30th, 2015)
The short answer is “YES, WE CAN SAY NO!”
First we must clarify what it means to say ‘NO’ in the wake of the rather confusing ‘opt-out’ policies our public service commission approved last summer for Michigan’s two largest utilities. Three years ago, both utilities had made repeated public announcements that there would be no opt-outs. Every home and every business would have a smart meter.Two years ago, both utilities were starting to talk about a possible opt-out policy, but neither utility had an opt-out plan in place. One year ago, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved opt-out tariffs for both utilities.
What we have now are “opt-out” plans that are really not opt-out plans at all. Most of us who have seriously studied this issue have concluded that it makes no sense to ‘sign up’ for the opt-out plan as it is presently constituted. To do so would constitute consent for the installation of a smart meter (the opt-out meter is still a smart meter, just one with the radio-frequency turned off) that will still cause you health problems and violate your privacy. For details on what the “opt-out” meter really is and why you should NOT “opt-out” see page on our site titled “To Opt Out or NOT to Opt Out”.
What saying ‘NO’ to smart meters really means today is letting the utility know, by certified letter, by signage on your meter and by speaking to the installer when the opportunity presents – that you do not consent to any type of smart meter – whether the radio transmitter is on or off. Saying ‘NO’ in any effective way also involves protecting your existing analog meter by placing some form of lock or guard on the meter enclosure.
DTE Energy and Consumers Energy will tell you that the meter is their property and they can do what they want with it. But your home is your property and you do have the right to forbid the installation of a device on your own property which is not just a meter, but a surveillance device and a source of electromagnetic radiation which may harm the residents of the home. You have the moral right, and we believe that if and when this issue is finally tested in the courts, the courts will determine that you have the legal right to refuse – and continue to receive electrical power from the regulated monopoly. There is no federal or state mandate that customers must accept these devices. Moreover, the Michigan legislature has defined what is meant by the word “meter” and ‘smart meters’ do not fit the legal definition of ‘meter’. The privately owned utilities ultimately have no legal position to back up their arbitrary policies.
Some of you may have heard of an incident in Naperville, Illinois where police were brought in to enforce a smart meter installation. The thing to keep in mind is that the electric utility there is actually owned by the city and the city passed an ordinance making it a misdemeanor to interfere with their installers. No such law exists in Michigan at the state level that would enable a privately owned utility to obtain the assistance of police for their installs. And most local governments in southeastern Michigan have weighed in against smart meters.
DTE will tell you that you must choose between a fully functional smart meter and a smart meter with one of its radio-transmitters disabled. We find ourselves being bullied in this way because the Michigan Public Service Commission has not done the job of protecting the public from the arbitrary actions of a (supposedly) regulated monopoly provider of electric power. See page on this site titled “The Attitude of the Michigan Public Service Commission” for discussion of MPSC stands on these matters. Consumers Energy has exactly the same policy offering the same forced choice, but they are being more lenient about enforcing it – for now.
The time to put a sign next to your meter and to lock your meter enclosure is NOW! Many people who planned to do this found one day to their surprise that the smart meter had already been installed.Those who would like some help in how to lock their meter enclosure will find the article “How to Keep a Smart Meter Off Your Property” very helpful.
The time to send a certified letter to the utility is when you have information that the utility will have crews in your neighborhood, when you have found it necessary to ask an installer to leave your property or when you are responding to a letter asking if you plan to opt-out. To send such a letter under other circumstances may simply invite them to start charging you opt-out fees sooner rather than later.
Those who would like a bit of help writing such a letter to a utility will find sample letters on this site on the page titled “Smart Meter Form Letters” and also on a similar page on “Smart Meter Education Network”.
Utility installers typically will not ring your doorbell unless they find a locked gate or a locked meter enclosure. If they do contact you the best response is “I do not consent to a smart meter, whether radio on or radio off. Put me down as a refusal”. Avoid using the words “opt-out”. Usually this is enough for them to leave and go on to their next house. If an installer is persistent you may need to order him to leave your property and point out that he will be trespassing if he remains. We know of no cases where this was not sufficient to cause an installer to leave.
Those who have been firm in their refusals still have their analog meters and have not experienced any actual retaliation by the utilities. The Smart Meter Education Network has a great deal of information on its website about how people have stood up to the utility.
SMART METER ALREADY INSTALLED: Some of you had the misfortune to have a smart meter installed before you even knew what a smart meter was. Many families in this situation have experienced serious health problems as a result of the smart meter or opt-out meter on their home and have pleaded with the utility to remove the meter—to no avail. For these families saying ‘NO’ ultimately meant that they had to remove the smart meter or opt-out meter themselves, replacing it with a properly calibrated analog meter that can be purchased on the internet for about $20. Details and a video about this approach can be found at www.freedomtaker.com. If you choose this option be sure to have it done by a qualified person.
Utility customers who change their own meters will receive unpleasant letters and/or phone calls from the utility. The utility will attempt to bully the customer into allowing them to come back on the property and re-install a smart meter. The number of DTE customers who have themselves removed a smart meter and re-installed an analog meter now numbers into the hundreds.
DTE has been known to huff and puff and threaten some customers who changed their own meter with electricity shut-off. From the hundreds who have done so we know of no more than 10 cases where such a threat has been carried out. We think DTE is limiting this rough tactic to only a few families, carefully selecting only families not likely to fight back in court for this treatment.
We need a good test case to take to court. Recently we saw an example of what can happen when a bad test case goes into a court. (See our article about the McNinch case elsewhere on this site) We are confident that we can win this battle in the legal system if we can ever get a case to court based on valid legal concepts. But until DTE actually turns off power to a family that will fight based on sound legal principles, we have to bide our time.
Even if it were legally permissible for DTE to shut-off power over this issue, they may not do so, according to MPSC regulations, without providing the customer with at least 10 days’ written notice. If during the 10-day notice period the customer files a complaint with the MPSC, the utility is not permitted to proceed with the disconnect until the complaint has been decided. If MPSC rules in favor of DTE the customer would have the option at this point of permitting re-installation of a smart meter and DTE would then, pursuant to regulations, have to restore power within 48 hours. If, on the other hand, while the MPSC is reviewing the complaint, a court case against DTE were filed, the utility might well be barred from disconnection by a temporary injunction, for the duration of the case.
The utility may claim that your electric usage is not being properly measured by the analog meter you installed. Or they may claim that your meter somehow is causing a safety risk to you or to their meter readers. The best response to such claims is simply to invite the utility to come back on your property to re-install an analog meter of their own such as they removed in the first place. That they have never done this reveals the sham nature of their two most common claims.
Bottom line: Most familys that changed their own meter still have the analog meters they installed and most have had their electric power continued without incident.
As we have said above, the utility is attempting to install on your home a device that does not meet the definition of a meter. We believe the customer is on firm moral and legal ground to have a qualified person remove a smart device and to refuse permission for the utility to come back on the property for the purpose of reinstalling such a ‘meter’ and, again, that when this issue is finally tested in the courts under a valid legal theory, it will be determined that the customer has the legal right to proceed in this manner – and continue to receive electrical power from the regulated monopoly. The scenario, however strange it might seem to some, is a problem of the utility’s own making.
For those who would like to learn still more about replacing your own meter, and perhaps participate in “Meter Removal Day” please see the excellent information at Smart Meter Education Network.