A small but impassioned group of picketers took to a Rohnert Park street Thursday to protest PG&E's mass installation of SmartMeters and what they say are health and privacy concerns that put Sonoma County residents at risk.

Saying PG&E was exposing people like "guinea pigs" to untested radio frequency emissions, about 20 people, principally members of the EMF Safety Network, encouraged residents to refuse to allow the meters to be installed on their homes and properties.

The protest was staged two days after the Sebastopol-based group was rebuffed in its effort to force the utilities commission to reopen its consideration of PG&E's SmartMeter project.

A few said they or members of their families already have experienced headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations and other symptoms after SmartMeters were installed where they live.

Others said they reject PG&E's and the California Public Utility Commission's reliance on health studies and standards related to other devices that emit radio frequencies, and say evidence of health problems specifically from SmartMeters should be analyzed before the deployment continues.

"It just seems totally sane and rational to use caution on this, to not role out untested technology," said west Marin County resident Katharina Sandizell.

A proposed ruling issued Tuesday by a state administrative law judge says radio frequency emissions at a distance of 10 feet from a SmartMeter are 1/6,000th of the maximum allowed by the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates electromagnetic emission sources such as cell phones.

PG&E also touts the limited, 45-seconds a day that the meter transmits data concerning residential energy use - so little it would take 1,000 years to be exposed to as much radio frequency emissions as a typical cell phone user gets in a month.

Robert Cleveland, an expert in the area of electromagnetican health and who over three decades with the FCC helped develop RF standards, said Thursday that there's no evidence supporting claims that SmartMeters create health risks.

Cleveland said he also reviewed studies prepared for PG&E that support the safety of the meters.

"There's absolutely no evidence that you could be exposed over the safety limits," Cleveland said.

Opponents argue that the safety limits overlook a percentage of the population with electromagnetic sensitivity, and say there are too many anecdotal situations in which people suddenly developed ringing ears and debilitating ailments after installation of SmartMeters.

The significance of Thursday's protest site was lost when Wellington Energy meter installation crews working out of the Commerce Boulevard location to deploy the meters locally failed to turn up Thursday.

Shelters for Pawnee fire evacuees

Lower Lake High School, 9430 Lake St., Lower Lake, is the official shelter established for people evacuating from the Pawnee fire. It is equipped to handle animals.

The Clearlake Oaks Moose Lodge, 15900 E. Highway 20, Clearlake Oaks, is not authorized by the Office of Emergency Services but is also sheltering fire evacuees, mostly people in campers and RVs who want their animals with them.

There is an authorized Lake County animal services station in an open field at Highway 53 and Anderson Ridge Road in Lower Lake.