In its Dec. 21 deliberation on the fate of electromechanical or analog opt-out electric meters, three Maine Public Utilities Commissioners were unanimous in their rejection of a 2011 Commission Order establishing analogs as one of two opt-out choices for citizens concerned over the many problems inherent with smart meters. The other original opt-out choice was a digital smart meter without a radio transceiver.
On Jan. 13 the Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters appealed the PUC decision to the Maine Supreme Judicial or Law Court.
In the current docket, 2019-00044, CMP claimed they needed to replace analog meters with new digital meters because they had run out of analogs. CMP, with approximately 650,000 analog meters when they switched to smart meters, was required in the original Opt Out Order from docket 2010-345, to retain enough electromechanical meters for any opt-out customer who might want one. Opt Out Order Part II, V. B states in part: “We disagree with CMP's argument that a smart meter opt-out program should not include an option for an electro-mechanical meter. In our view, providing two opt-out options will not be overly confusing to customers and, based on the smart meter complaints and customer letters, the vast majority of customers that have concerns regarding smart meters desire to maintain an existing meter. It would be of little purpose to provide an opt-out alternative in response to customer concerns when that alternative is not acceptable to most of the customers as a means to address those concerns. We expect CMP to take reasonable actions to maintain the equipment and resources necessary to support both opt-out options.”
“The PUC has rewarded CMP for their bad behavior and blatant disregard of the original order,” said Ed Friedman, spokesperson for the Coalition. “Somehow, presumably through scrapping or sales, CMP has disappeared about 644,500 meters (650,000 pre smart meter analogs minus those retained by the original 9,000 opt out customers reduced to 5,500 through attrition from cost and harassment) and the Commissioners have, not unexpectedly, let them off the hook. Both the PUC and CMP must be held accountable” he said. “There’s no reason why, if for whatever reason CMP is out of electromechanical meter stock, the company can’t purchase a couple hundred refurbished meters at $20 each and start an active and rolling refurbishment program, sending their own older ones in to get recertified at $10 each, a low cost, effective, safe and green solution that plenty of other utilities take advantage of. The entire supposed premise for the smart meter program was energy savings and yet here the PUC is rejecting clean, green solutions that reduce, reuse and recycle in favor of short-lived, toxic, expensive alternative new digital meters.”
On Aug. 13, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in EHT et al, vs FCC ruled that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ignored scientific evidence and failed to provide a reasoned explanation for its determination that its 1996 RFR exposure regulations adequately protect the public against all the harmful effects of wireless radiation. The ruling stated that the FCC's “arbitrary and capricious” decision to maintain their 25-year-old exposure limits did not address evidence indicating "non-cancer" harm, such as impacts to children, testimony of persons injured by wireless radiation, impacts to the developing brain, impacts to the reproductive system, and impacts to wildlife and the environment.
Portland attorney for the Coalition, Scott Sells, who drafted and filed the appeal, cited the ongoing federal litigation as primary basis for the group’s decision to move ahead. “The PUC has based their decision in this and past related dockets on 1996FCC radiofrequency radiation exposure standards when it comes to safety. The recent U.S. Appeals Court decision however, which the PUC should have considered, effectively renders those standards obsolete when it comes to harmful non-cancer effects, children and the environment. Until and unless the FCC can satisfactorily justify their continued use of outdated safety standards, as directed by the U.S. Appeals Court, we have asked the Maine Law Court to stay enactment of the recent PUC order allowing analog meter replacement. The U.S. Appeals Court decision also casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of prior PUC determinations that solid state smart meters are “safe.”
In their Motion for Reconsideration of the PUC decision in docket 2019-00044, Coalition members claimed errors of law, errors of fact, and arbitrary and capricious behavior by the Commission. CMP recently was ranked last for the fourth consecutive year on JD Power’s customer service survey of similar size utilities. The company is a defendant in a number of state and federal lawsuits.