The Bakersfield Effect Hits Santa Cruz

The Bakersfield Effect is Spreading as Santa Cruz Opposes PG&E Smart Meters.

The City of Watsonville, California banned smart meter installation last week.  It was the second community to try to stop PG&E from moving forward with the installation of this new technology following the lead of Marin County.  Now Santa Cruz County is making noise that it might join the ban Smart Meters movement by proposing a moratorium in smart meter installations.

The legality of these bans is dubious since jurisdiction over utilities is vested in the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) but that has not stopped the protests.  The CPUC asked for a meeting with Santa Cruz officials to diffuse the issue, but the meeting turned contentious and the county officials left after telling the CPUC and PG&E they would do everything they could to stop the smart meter installations.

“It is hard to feel we can wait for the CPUC to do its job.  We’re going to take any action we can to ensure citizens of this community have protection.”—Santa Cruz County Supervisor John Leopold.

All of this started in Bakersfield, California when protesters showed up waving their utility bills at a PG&E meeting seeking good press from the rollout of its smart meter installation program.  The politicians attending expected good news were, instead, met with angry ratepayers who as voters in the upcoming election started fingering the politicians demanding action.

The real culprit was not the smart meters—although PG&E would later admit some defective meters has been installed and some bugs were discovered in how they worked—the real culprit was the cumulating costs of rate increases, the costs for renewable energy procurement, emissions reduction and other policy aspirations of California’s politicians and regulators.

How much is this Smart Meter going to cost?

That has been the question on the minds of the ratepayers, but the Bakersfield effect protests are gathering steam and adding additional concerns about concerns over magnetic fields from the wireless networks and other health and safety issues as well as the accuracy of the meters and their effects on utility bills.

Are smart meters safe?

There is no credible evidence that the electromagnetic fields created from the wireless meter reading networks are dangerous.  And, in any event, our ubiquitous use of cell phones would surely present a more immediate problem if any such evidence exists.  But that has not stopped the issue from being raised.

Last week a group of protesters from the Wireless Radiation Alert Network showed up at the PG&E staging area for its smart meter installers and said they successfully keep the trucks from leaving the lot to do their work.  They vowed to return every day until the Santa Cruz County Supervisors adopt the smart meter moratorium.

Are Smart Meters Smart?

PG&E would like to install SmartMeters throughout Santa Cruz County, but the installations have been controversial here.  That was the question put to readers of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in an unscientific poll this week.  As of this writing on August 29th there are 1057 votes in the poll with 635 (60.7%) of those responding say the smart meters are smart, while 422 (39.2%) of respondents say they are not smart. But this is Santa Cruz after all, a quirky place made up of students and old hippies and enough others to provide adult supervision most of the time.

So what?

The good news for PG&E is this WRAN protest group is against all wireless devices that produce what they consider to  be harmful radiation and they have been around for years doing these protests.

The bad news is now they are calling more attention to smart meters—and not in a good way.  They now are picketing smart meter installations, impeding the work flow, and drawing media attention.  And they are now stirring up the local politicians ahead of the November election when every incumbent is running for cover.