The conflict that’s been going on in West Marin over PG&E’s installation of SmartMeters has gotten a little more volatile. Protests have taken place the past two days in Inverness, with residents trying to block the meters from being installed. From today’s Marin Independent Journal:
In an escalation of protests against Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s SmartMeters, opponents Monday and Tuesday jousted with employees of a company PG&E hired to install the meters in Inverness.
“Yesterday we got a report there were four Wellington Energy trucks going towards Inverness,” Katharina Sandizell, of Point Reyes Station, said Tuesday. “We have a phone tree, so we got together and basically stopped them…”
Opponents of the meters blocked the path to some houses as Wellington employees approached. In other cases, they videotaped and photographed the Wellington employees. Police were called by Wellington twice. No arrests were made, however.
That last line, about the no arrests? That was yesterday.
Today, two people were cited and arrested while blockading a street in Inverness, Sgt. Gary Wilbanks of the Marin County Sheriff’s Office told KQED’s Mina Kim. The women were trying to prevent installation of the meters by Wellington Energy, a PG&E contractor, which called the Sheriff’s Dept.
Katharina Sandizell, quoted in the MIJ article above, told Mina Kim that she was one of the woman arrested. Kim also happened to be talking to Sandizell before her arrest, just as the Wellington trucks pulled up. At that time, Sandizell said that about 20 sign-waving people had turned out for the protest.
Sandizell said her main complaint about the meters was that people who’d had them installed had experienced unpleasant symptoms, including dizziness, sleep disturbances, and heart palpitations. Sandizell said these effects disappeared when residents left their homes.
“PG&E is at war with their customers; it’s an undemocratic rollout,” Sandizell said, just as protesters began to block the trucks.
Paul Moreno, a spokesperson for PG&E., told Mina Kim that the meters are safe, and that the radio frequency at which they transmit is well within FCC guidelines. He said PG&E has done extensive community outreach, meeting with city councils and holding town hall meetings to address questions and concerns. The company did not hold meetings in Inverness specifically, he said.
On December 2, the California Public Utility Commission rejected a request by the EMF Safety Network to halt deployment of SmartMeters, though commissioners did express an interest in seeing more research about possible health effects.
To that end, at the request of State Assembly Members Jared Huffman of Marin and Bill Monning of Santa Cruz, the California Council on Science and Technology is currently reviewing the safety of the devices. Huffman also introduced a bill allowing utility customers to opt out of the SmartMeter program.
If you want to wade further into this issue, Marin Magazine is running a good piece called Smart Meters, Dumb Idea?, about the ongoing battle in the county.