TALENT — Concerns voiced by residents over the planned installation of smart meters by Pacific Power has prompted the city to sponsor an information session from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 30, at Town Hall, 206 E. Main St.
“I feel like it’s just the correct response to our community,” said Mayor Daby Ayers-Flood. “They want to be heard. They asked to be heard. I think we all have something to learn. I feel short about knowledge on smart meters. I’m excited to learn some more about it from both sides”.
Speakers have addressed the planned installation of smart meters during the City Council’s public comment periods since January. They have voiced concerns about potential health effects of the low-level radio frequency emissions from the meters, safety and a lack of public input and choice.
Christina Kruger, regional business manager for Pacific Power, will speak for the utility. A speaker representing concerned residents will also address the topic. A question and answer session will be moderated either by Ayers-Flood or interim City Manager Ryan Martin.
Pacific Power has told consumers the new meters were coming for some time, but a Thursday news release announced installation will begin starting the week of June 25 in communities throughout Jackson County and will continue through September. About 88,000 meters are scheduled for replacement. Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt did not know when installations would occur in the Talent area.
Smart meters are attached to meter bases to record electrical consumption and communicate the information to suppliers for monitoring and billing purposes. The meters send the information through intermittent radio frequency signals. Pacific Power’s installations will allow consumers to review the information through internet accounts.
An American Cancer Society website states that radio frequency radiation is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. The site states the risk isn’t clear, although it is possible, in a home with a smart meter. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, a cellphone generates 5,000 microwatts when held against a person’s ear, while a smart meter puts out 40 microwatts from 3 feet away.
“The thing that most disturbs me is that up to now we can kind of regulate the amount of microwave exposure we have by limiting cell phones and other devices,” said Tom Clunie, who has addressed the council. “By putting a smart meter on the house that means we will have (the exposure) 24/7. It will take away freedom of choice.”
Pacific Power allows customers to opt out of smart meter installation. They must pay a one-time $137 fee and will be charged $36 per month for meter reading service. So far in Oregon fewer than 1 percent of customers have opted out of the installations, Gauntt said.
Talent resident Bridget Krause has also testified before City Council several times on smart meters. Krause says she suffers electromagnetic hypersensitivity but, because she lives in an apartment complex, opting out of a smart meter would still leave her receiving emissions from other smart meters.
Krause noted that New Mexico’s Public Regulation Commission in April denied a request from power provider PNM to install smart meters. Media reports said the agency cited a lack of public benefit, unreasonable opt-out fees, health concerns and safety concerns in rejecting the request.
Clunie also said he worries about fire hazards because the smart meters are not grounded when they are put on an existing meter bases.
More than 70 million smart meters have been installed at homes and businesses in the U.S. Local customers will be notified by mail when installation is scheduled at their residences.
Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.