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PG&E won't halt SmartMeter work in Sebastopol

PG&E will continue to install SmartMeters in Sebastopol over the objections of city leaders, who had sought a delay until state regulators conclude hearings on new opt-out procedures.

A PG&E spokesman on Thursday said delaying installation of gas and electric SmartMeters in Sebastopol would “disadvantage” customers who want the devices.

“There are things that are important to Sonoma County customers, like quicker, faster outage restoration,” spokesman Greg Snapper said. “With a SmartMeter, we can figure out where the power is out and restore it much faster than in the past.”

Sebastopol is ground zero for concerns that the wireless meters emit radio frequencies that can cause health problems.

The City Council voted 5-0 on July 19 to ask PG&E not to install any more meters within city limits until the state Public Utilities Commission concludes hearings on how groups or communities could opt out of having the devices installed.

In a letter to Larry McLaughlin, Sebastopol's interim city manager, a PG&E official said the utility company could not agree to the city's proposal.

The letter also noted that PG&E operates under the exclusive jurisdiction of the PUC.

Snapper said PG&E representatives will be contacting Sebastopol customers to let them know that a SmartMeter is about to be installed and to inform them how to opt out.

PG&E has installed 1,700 SmartMeters in Sebastopol, which has 23,000 residential and business meters.

Individuals are allowed to keep their traditional meters for a one-time fee of $75 and a $10 monthly fee to cover the cost of having the meters read.

Snapper said that 600 Sebastopol residents with 950 meters have opted out of the SmartMeter program.

The company noted in its letter to the city that 95 percent of residential customers in Sebastopol — or 11,650 people — have not opted out of the program.

Snapper said PG&E is opposed to the idea of allowing communities to opt-out of the meter program.

“We believe that individual choice, rather than community opt-out, strikes a good balance for customers who want SmartMeters and those who do not,” he said.

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