Land Use and Environmental Committee Legislative Committee
The following is for study only and has NOT been approved by the Land Use and Environmental, Legislative or Executive Committees, or the Board of Directors.
Issue: What position should C.A.R. take on Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman), a legislative proposal that, amongst other things, would require utilities to provide alternative options to the installation of radio frequency Smart Meters, and halt the installation of radio frequency Smart Meters until the alternatives are both identified and available?
Action: Policy direction required at this time
Options: 1. "Support" Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman) 2. "Oppose" Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman) 3. "Amend" Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman) 4. "Watch" Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman) 5. Other
Status: Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman) is currently in the Assembly awaiting a hearing in the Assembly Utilities & Commerce committee. Since AB 37 would require the California Public Utilities Commission to take action, the bill requires an appropriation. Thus, it will need a 2/3 vote to pass.
Background: Smart Meters are an essential element of the smart grid, transmitting customer energy-use data wirelessly to utilities and giving consumers real-time information on energy consumption and costs. Smart grid technology allows customers to better manage their energy usage to improve efficiency and to save money. This requires that the smart grid communicate as a two-way system between the customer and the utility. Currently, the newest Smart Meters being installed statewide transmit data via radio frequency (RF). Concerns have been raised about potential health effects caused by RF.
Discussion: Health & Safety Concerns: While RF Smart Meters are approved to meet current State and Federal safety standards, consumers, public health advocates, local governments and others have voiced concerns that the standards are inadequate and that cumulative effects of RF devices have not been considered. Other RF devices include cell phones, Wi-Fi routers, and microwaves.
The health concerns about the smart meters focus on the phenomenon known as "electromagnetic hypersensitivity," or E.H.S., in which people claim that radiation from cellphones, WiFi systems or smart meters causes them to suffer dizziness, fatigue, headaches, sleeplessness or heart palpitations. The two most recent government reviews of available research found no link between health problems and common levels of electromagnetic radiation. Both reports indicated that more research would be welcome; on that basis, opponents say the meters should not be installed until they are proved safe.
Scientific measurements of RF signals from in front and behind smart meters found them well below the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) safety limits. Also, the strength of the signal drops with distance. Because smart meters transmit for only a small fraction of the day (data is sent in quick bursts several times an hour, averaging about a minute and a half of transmission time per hour) the RF level in actual usage is less than 1 percent of the FCC limit, according to industry scientists. In addition, several independent analyses are also showing that Smart Meter RF emissions fall below those from cell phones, cell phone base towers, microwave ovens, Wi-Fi routers.
Private Property Concerns: AB 37 states that there are alternatives to the RF Smart Meters but none are currently being offered. Assembly Member Huffman and concerned citizens throughout California seeking access to these alternatives contend that since Smart Meters are required to be installed, that property owners should have a choice in which technology is used at their home. AB 37 demands that customers who are RF sensitive or who wish to minimize their exposures should be offered an alternative.
Activists have raised the concern that having a Smart Meter installed on their private property against their will violates the right to quite enjoyment of their property.
From a market perspective, opponents of Smart Meters feel that the given the controversy over the meters, home values may be reduced simply by their presence.
Supporting Arguments Whether or not RF exposure from Smart Meters is harmful, it is only fair that consumers who are concerned about health effects be given complete technical information and the choice of another technology for devices that are required to be installed at their homes.
All homeowners should be offered a choice between the technologies being forced upon them, if not be able to opt out completely. Otherwise, owners or occupiers may be unreasonably disturbed in their use of the property.
Opposing Arguments The science to indisputably support the negative health effects of RF Smart Meters does not exist. Taking a policy position based upon potentially spurious claims and speculation on the health risks involved with RF Smart Meters should be pursued carefully. In addition, rate payers will have to fund the identification, vetting and approval of alternatives, thus increasing utility costs state-wide.
Conclusion What position, if any, should C.A.R. take on Assembly Bill 37 (Huffman)?