04/25/2017 / By Ethan Huff
A vocal coalition of Michiganders is taking to the streets — and their local city council meetings — to oppose the growing intrusion of privacy and personal safety with state utility companies transitioning to “smart” meters. Reports indicate that thousands of folks have already opted out, and new legislation is pending to make these opt-outs cheaper and less penalizing.
More than 150 people from across Michigan packed a committee hearing for the new bill, known as H.B. 4220, that would cap the amount of money that utility companies are allowed to charge monthly for customers who choose to keep their old meters. H.B. 4220 would also prohibit utility companies from charging any more than the actual amount it costs to remove a smart meter and convert it back to a traditional meter.
Resident concerns about smart meters range from privacy issues — involving the way the devices track personal energy usage — to safety issues, such as concerns over the radiation that’s continuously pulsed from the meters as they monitor energy usage throughout the day and night. Many people simply don’t want to be forced to have these devices attached to their homes without their consent, and they certainly don’t want to be paying out the nose for the “privilege” of keeping their old analog meters.
“This is an infringement on a homeowner’s property rights,” Michelle Rison, a resident of Spring Lake, near Grand Rapids, told the Detroit Free Press. “Smart meters provide a gateway for getting information on activity in the home.”
From a privacy perspective, smart meters are an invasive technology that makes it easier for third parties to track and monitors how energy customers choose to live. Every nuance of the way people live, from how often they do laundry to how many television shows they watch per week, are potential data points that can be skimmed from smart meter usage.
But the more pertinent issue, and the one that most people opposed to smart meters seem to be emphasizing, are the potential health risks. The EMF Safety Network outlines a host of reported health problems associated with smart meter use, including chronic fatigue, ringing in the ears, headaches, heart problems, difficulty balancing, sleep deprivation, leg cramps, and even vision problems.
Very little research has been done on the long-term health impacts of smart meter usage, and yet utilities and many legislators insist that the technology is installed for convenience and efficiency purposes. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the type of wireless radiation emitted from smart meters a class 2B carcinogen, meaning it causes cancer.
Like in many other states, the Michigan Public Service Commission says that the scientific data is definitive: Smart meters are perfectly safe and people shouldn’t worry about using them or being near them. But this isn’t enough reassurance for the thousands of Michiganders, and the tens of thousands of Americans all across the country, who would prefer to stick to their old analog meters.
“We know if we get near them [smart meters] our bodies won’t cook, but what if we get near 40 of them?” asked David Lonier of Auburn Hills, a suburb of Detroit, to the Detroit Free Press.
H.B. 4220 has the support of multiple legislators, including Representative Gary Glenn (R-Midland) who vehemently disagrees with the compulsory nature of the smart meter transition. On the other hand, Rep. John Kivela (D-Marquette) is making the claim that letting some people opt out of getting a smart meter could place an undue burden on other customers to pick up the slack — an ironic position to take for a Democrat who presumably supports other Democratic-socialistic policies that involve forcing some people to foot the subsidy bill of other people.