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Protestors, scientist at odds over SmartMeters

  • Jennifer Delany (left) and Melinda Leithold hold up signs agains PG&E's installation of smart meters on Commerce Blvd near State Farm Drive in Rohnert Park. They had planned to picket in front of the utility's installation yard, but the operations and trucks had moved.

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.

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