News Today: PG&E Must Propose SmartMeter Opt-Out; SF Budget Analyst: Final Cup Deal Costlier

We have been preoccupied with the tsunami warning today, but here are some other news stories you should know about:

  • 2-week deadline for PG&E’s SmartMeter opt-out plan (SF Chronicle)

    California’s top utility regulator on Thursday gave Pacific Gas and Electric Co. two weeks to propose a way for customers to opt out of receiving the company’s controversial wireless SmartMeters. The move follows mounting complaints about the new electricity and gas meters from people who consider the radiation from cell phones, computers and other wireless devices to be a health threat.

  • Analyst says America’s Cup deal got costlier (SF Chronicle)

    San Francisco agreed to a deal that could cost the city millions more dollars to host the next America’s Cup regatta than the one the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved in December, according to a disputed report from the board’s budget analyst released Thursday.

  • 5% drop in African American population in Oakland (SF Chronicle)

    Oakland, whose thriving African American community for decades shaped black identity for the nation, lost nearly a quarter of its black population in the past decade, U.S. Census data shows. Now, Oakland has nearly as many white people as it does African American. It also has nearly as many Latinos.

  • BART gets better budget news (SF Chronicle)

    Despite the uncertain nature of the economy and state funding, BART expects to balance its operating budget for the coming year, and maybe even have some money left over to replace filthy seats, clean up stations and trains, or run service later at night.

  • Community policing hot topic at S.F. meeting (SF Chronicle)

    San Francisco’s top cop assured members of the Board of Supervisors that he’s committed to community policing, and asked that they not try to cement the policy into law.

  • Environmental groups urge Brown to rebuff reforms (Contra Costa Times)

    Leading environmentalist groups called on Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday to rebuff demands by Republicans to overhaul environmental protections, and complained of being shut out of closed-door negotiations as Brown seeks a deal to close a $26.6 billion deficit. Brown is considering a host of GOP reforms as he continued to meet at his Capitol office with Republicans, whose support he needs to send his tax extension proposal to the ballot. Environmentalists said they were alarmed by regulatory reforms Republicans are aiming for, though they have not been privy to specific demands.

  • Tensions Rise as Oakland Gang Injunction Hearing Grinds On (Oakland North)

    As the hearing over the proposed Fruitvale gang injunction grinds on, tension is rising between the two sides over how long the process is taking. On the prosecution’s side, the Oakland city attorney’s office wants the court to approve the proposed injunction as quickly as possible, while the defense, which represents 27 of the 40 alleged gang members named in the injunction, wants to prevent its enforcement. Initially, a ruling was expected after a one- or two-day hearing in mid-February. But after four days of witness testimony that have stretched out over four weeks, including more than four hours spent questioning Oakland police officer Douglass Keely Wednesday, staffers from the city attorney’s office are complaining that the defense may be intentionally dragging its feet.

  • Census to bring change to Bay Area political landscape (Contra Costa Times)

    The Bay Area will likely lose legislative seats to faster-growing inland regions after its population in the past decade failed to keep pace with its eastern neighbors. The populations of the districts of nearly every Bay Area member of Congress, state Senate and Assembly fell short in census data released this week.

  • Windsor teen survives leap from Golden Gate Bridge (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)

    A 17-year-old Windsor High School student on a school-sponsored field trip to San Francisco leaped from the Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday — and survived. Luhe “Otter” Vilagomez, a junior who friends and school staff said enrolled at the school in the last week of February, was with a group of about 45 humanities students on a field trip to the de Young Museum. The field trip is conducted every other year with humanities students and typically includes a class walk across the bridge.

  • RobertWilliams

    PG$E OPT-OUT ALTERNATIVE FORCED BY 33 CITIES AND COUNTIES AGAINST WIRELESS SMART METERS.

    Ten cities and counties actually went beyond and passed ORDINANCES PROHIBITING WIRELESS smart meter installation.

    Opt-out is not the solution to the WIRELESS meter problem.

    People who opt-out but have neighbors who don’t are still affected by the Wireless RF radiation emitted by the meters 24/7.

    People who are unaware of the health problems (and pets, animals, birds, bees, etc) and people who cannot afford the payment for opt-out are still affected.

    Isn’t being forced to pay to avoid something that you don’t want called EXTORTION?
    Isn’t being forced to pay not be hurt a basic example of extortion?

    The attorney for the PUC was previously the attorney for PG$E.
    The Chairman of the PUC was previously the President of the Utility Company.

    Does that affect their perspective and their loyalties?

    The PUC is supposed to be Regulating PG$E. But instead, the PUC is a just a stage for PG$E.

    It may not have started that way years ago, but that is the way it is now.

  • Aaron Brock

    “We are not bound by the PUC’s decisions. Neither are our elected officials. The Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, Section 11120, states: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them…The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.” We are the last word, not the PUC.”

    http://stopsmartmeters.org/2011/03/03/nina-beety-its-time-to-take-action-against-smart-meters/

    Nina Beety: “It’s Time to Take Action Against Smart Meters”

    Nina Beety is a Monterey based activist who has been fighting PG&E’s stupid meter assault with a ferocity and a tenacity that must make the executives at 77 Beale St. quake in their pricey leather dress shoes. On disability and low income, she spent $4100 of her own money last month to place a full page ad in the Monterey Herald that has turned the tables on PG&E in Monterey County’s smart meter debate virtually overnight, with the City of Monterey on Tuesday unanimously demanding that the utility halt any installations within the city.

    The ‘powers that be’ got nervous- PG&E ran their own full page ad in the paper a few days later, and the General Manager of KSBW News- Joseph Heston- broadcast a ridiculous, inaccurate, and unprecedented editorial statement:

    “loud voices are suggesting that Smart Meters will do everything from listen in on your conversations to fry your brain.”

    It’s funny how the media gets riled when their control of the message is impinged upon: “We’re the only ones who are allowed to have loud voices around here!”

    Monterey is the first city in Monterey County to take formal action against ‘smart’ meters, and joins 29 other cities, towns, and counties around California in taking action opposing them. (Check out our new updated page of CA local governments demanding a moratorium) More are poised to follow, including the town of Pacific Grove, where last night police were summoned to a packed city council meeting amidst some mysterious ‘threat of violence’ totally manufactured by the police spokesman, who alluded to some “anti-government forces.” It’s positively turning into Cairo down here.

    Nina Beety was asked by KION TV how she could afford a full page ad on limited income and she said with a smile: “that’s what credit cards are for.“ Donations have been pouring in from all over the state to help her raise back the money, a true outpouring of grassroots affection and solidarity. If you’d like to also contribute, please contact us and we can get you in touch. Every little helps.

    I bring Nina up because she just wrote a brilliant, forceful, and truthful article for Pacific Grove’s Cedar Street Times, an article that deserves a much bigger audience. Those in Monterey County- and the rest of us as well- are lucky to have her fighting for us. It’s time to bring out the Nina in all of us.

    -SSM!

    The following was published February 25, 2011 by the Cedar Street Times, a weekly newspaper in Pacific Grove, CA
    Guest Commentary
    Smart Meters: It’s time to take action
    By Nina Beety

    Despite the many substantial problems with PG&E Smart Meters, none of our cities nor our county have taken action yet to protect the residents of Monterey County from the illegal actions of the California Public Utilities Commission.

    Why are the PUC’s actions illegal? The PUC has legal obligations under the California Constitution. Article 1, Section 1, which states that we, the people of California, have inalienable rights including the right to enjoy and defend our life and liberty, protect our property, and “pursu(e) and obtain() safety, happiness, and privacy;” all of which our PUC and even our state legislature dispute by their actions. And we have rights, for ourselves and our communities, and responsibilities to our communities, apart from any legal statute, that are basic to all communities everywhere.

    The PUC, headed by Chairman Michael Peevey, former president of Southern California Edison, continues to steamroll this program over California, despite growing vocal opposition by the public, petitions calling for investigations, public hearings, and a moratorium on Smart Meter deployment, as well as substantial evidence of harm from this program, highlighted even by their Division of Ratepayer Advocates.

    There’s been hardly a peep out of the legislature, despite the uproar. The one major exception was former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez, whose district of Fresno and Bakersfield was the first area to deploy and where Smart Meter problems started appearing. However, he termed out last year. So, we’re left with a small bill, AB37, which calls for individual opt-out from the program, at the utility company’s pleasure of an alternative – no mention of who pays – and the bill doesn’t go into effect until 2012 when most of the meters would be deployed anyway and no retroactive clause. Nice gesture, but no thanks.

    The farce of an “independent” investigation into accuracy by the Structure Group – they’ve worked for PG&E and are involved in the Smart Grid — is further compounded by an “investigation” by the California Council of Science and Technology. Read their report here , and then the stinging critiques by those who specialize in EMF/RF which CCST has not published on their website. Even with its limitations and contrary to the spin by PG&E, the CCST report does not say Smart Meters are safe.

    What are the issues? One issue with wireless Smart Meters is hacking, recently highlighted yet again by a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Smart Meters can be remotely disconnected by PG&E, and presumably by anyone who can hack the system. Everyone gets the Smart Meters, including our police and fire departments. Think of what havoc can be wrought if the electric meters of our emergency personnel are hacked and remotely disconnected.

    Increased bills are what first caught the public’s attention about Smart Meters. And not just mild increases. Bills have doubled, tripled and more, and PG&E (and other utility companies elsewhere) have been very obliging to work out payment plans while refusing to take responsibility for why. Senator Dean Florez planned to hold state hearings on accuracy but cancelled these when the San Bruno explosions occurred – this was unfortunate. No other legislator has had the gumption to stand up to the utility companies on behalf of the consumer and demand answers.

    The health issues are real and substantial. Exposure to microwave radiofrequency (RF) has known, documented biological impacts including cellular stress, blood-brain barrier disruption, increased risk for cancers and tumors, brainwave alteration, decreased melatonin production, calcium ions efflux from cell membrane walls, cognitive difficulties, such as memory loss, skin problems, decreased sperm, DNA damage, neurological impacts, heart rhythm disturbances, and more. And the effects of these Smart Meters on people — heart rhythm disturbances, nausea, dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus/hearing buzzing, flu-like symptoms, cognitive problems – are what radar workers experienced, at least as far back as the 1950’s. The CCST critiques are a good overview on the scientific literature.

    Non-ionizing radiation has been given a “pass” for years – in part because it doesn’t have the power to do things like break chemical bonds of DNA, for example.

    It doesn’t have to. Low levels of EMF (and RF is within the EM frequency band) causes calcium ions to leave cell membrane walls, allowing them to leak. When you have a lysosome, which contains an enzyme that dissolves DNA, leaking, you have damaged cellular DNA. There are probably many other mechanisms as well.

    Latency periods for many diseases including cancers and brain tumors – ten years or more – as well as impacts to our children that will manifest later in life, fool us into thinking nothing is happening now.

    FCC exposure guidelines are fraudulent and provide little protective benefit to the public. They are “considered” protective of a one-time brief exposure that does not produce heating (thermal) effects.

    That’s it. Long-term or cumulative exposure, or biological impacts are not covered.
    Two reports released this year showed that Smart Meters can violate FCC exposure guidelines under normal operating conditions, and this is especially true of a model which PG&E uses. And FCC guidelines are some of the most lax in the world.

    The federal government has repeatedly been petitioned to revise these guidelines, and one response was to prohibit local governments from considering environmental/health effects when making cell tower siting decisions (Sect. 704 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act).

    The FCC aggressively pursues wireless buildout, promoting the very thing it is responsible for regulating, using such phrases as “fight for” to describe their commitment to wireless at the expense of the public. In doing so, they ignore the actions of other countries to limit and warn about wireless uses, including the governments of Germany and France, the European Parliament, and the warnings by international scientists and medical professionals.

    These impacts don’t just affect humans. The impact to all life can be substantial – a study by Belyaev showed altered genetic structure in e coli bacteria at 1/10,000,000,000 (one ten-trillionth) of one microwatt per cm2. Very tiny doses of microwave RF can substantially affect us.

    And electric Smart Meters are one million microwatts (=1 watt) or more; some meters are 2-3 watts. This adds to impacts from cell phones, cell towers, cordless phones, Wi-Fi, etc. that we already experience.

    And that’s just microwave RF, not other RF or electromagnetic frequency sources.

    Navigational creatures, in particular, like bats, birds, bees, and butterflies, have magnetite, (we also have magnetite) that is very sensitive to electromagnetic fluctuations. They use it to navigate, to detect the fluctuations in the earth’s electromagnetic field and also to detect approaching storms. If they can’t sense this, they are seriously compromised. Also, EMF disrupts the nitric oxide balance, which is critical in bees for learning, smell and immune function, and in us as well. The artificial EMF/RF that humans have created is much louder than background natural frequencies, and grows louder every day. Bees, Birds and Mankind: Destroying Nature by Electrosmog by Ulrich Warnke is rich with research on these impacts to all of us.

    Our butterfly sanctuary is currently under siege from microwave rf emissions from Wi-Fi and wireless devices, and very recently, two cellular antennas erected by AT&T. It will now be severely additionally compromised by the powerful round-the-clock pulses coming from surrounding Smart Meters.

    We do not have the luxury of continued ignorance about the damage we are causing with our wireless technology. The article in GQ magazine last year on cell phones gives an overview of these issues, and I have listed a few websites below.

    Last week the SF Chapter of the Sierra Club called for a ban on Smart Meters in San Francisco. The Sonoma County Republican Central Committee, the California Peace and Freedom Party, and the Marin Association of Realtors have called for a moratorium on Smart Meters. Public Citizen joined with AARP, Consumers Union and other groups to highlight concerns over the SM program. There are now four cities and three counties that have adopted ordinances halting Smart Meter and infrastructure deployment. And opposition to Smart Meters growing.

    We dither at our own peril. My ad in the Monterey Herald is getting many phone calls from the community wanting to stop Smart Meters as well as to disconnect existing Smart Meters which people did not want but were told they had to have.

    We are not bound by the PUC’s decisions. Neither are our elected officials. The Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, Section 11120, states: “The people of this state do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them…The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.” We are the last word, not the PUC.

    It is the duty and responsibility of the personnel of our cities and county, elected and paid staff, to take action when faced with substantial evidence of harm to their jurisdictions. If those personnel are afraid to act, then, for the sake of this community, vacate your seats and let people of more common sense, responsibility, courage, and commitment to the oaths of office take your place, because we need to act now.

    To the public, Contact your city council and Board of Supervisors, and tell you want them to agendize and adopt an ordinance now. PG City Council will be considering what action to take next week, as well as other cities on the Peninsula. Attend those meetings and speak up. They will often respond only if the public demands it of them.

    Deny access to PG&E and Wellington Energy (their contractor) by locking gates if possible. Inform installers that you do not want Smart Meters and tell them to leave your property. If they do not, call law enforcement. If you are a renter and you pay the utility bill, you have jurisdiction over your meter. Document and report rudeness and bullying by PG&E and Wellington Energy, including threats to disconnect power. PG&E will walk over us if we let them. Document any health changes that occur after Smart Meter installation, and keep your previous PG&E bills for comparison. If you have a pacemaker, avoid Smart Meters.

    Websites with information on the many negative impacts and the opposition from Smart Meters include http://www.emfsafetynetwork.org, http://www.turn.org, http://www.electricalpollution.com, and http://stopsmartmeters.org.

    It is up to us to take action.

Author

Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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