Mendocino County supervisors have adopted a moratorium on SmartMeter installations, paving the way for residents to file criminal complaints against PG&E when workers install meters without their consent.
But don't expect a deputy to respond.
County residents instead will be directed to fill out a report form, which is expected to be available on the sheriff's website in about 60 days. Reports will be forwarded to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office, said Sheriff Tom Allman.
"It would be up to the D.A.'s Office to do something," he said, noting his deputies already are stretched thin because of budget cuts.
The moratorium, passed unanimously by supervisors on Tuesday, makes violations either an infraction or misdemeanor as well as a nuisance. But its authority is in question.
PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission contend only the CPUC has jurisdiction over the utility, including SmartMeter installations.
"PG&E will not be honoring moratoriums unless it comes from the CPUC," said utility spokesman Paul Moreno.
But the company will continue to hold informational meetings in an effort to alleviate some citizen concerns, including concerns that the radio waves it emits are unhealthy, he said.
The meters are aimed at making readings of electricity and gas consumption more accurate and at enabling the company and consumers to better regulate energy use, potentially saving resources.
Consumers will be able to monitor their usage at the meter in real time or online the following day.
Mendocino County officials have yet to determine how they'll pursue violations of the SmartMeter moratorium, Allman said.
District Attorney David Eyster said he'll have to look into the issue when he returns from Southern California, where he's attending a training seminar for newly elected district attorneys.
Law officials in Santa Cruz, which passed a similar SmartMeter moratorium Jan. 11, also have yet to determine how to proceed with enforcement.
"We need a legal opinion," said Santa Cruz Sheriff's Chief Deputy Len Lofano.
But, like Allman, he doubts his department has the time to pursue violations.
"Our priority is crimes against people," Lofano said.
In Marin County, Sheriff Bob Doyle has said he won't enforce that county's ban because it's not the county's jurisdiction.
Law officials in Watsonville, where a moratorium has been in place since August, also have decided not to become involved.
"It's the last thing I want to do. We have gang problems to tackle," said Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano.
But one of the city's code enforcement officers has forged ahead, slapping PG&E with a $100 fine for installing a meter at a business park, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
PG&E attorneys responded by issuing a letter saying the city does not have jurisdiction over the utility and recommending it abandon the moratorium. Watsonville officials with knowledge of the case could not be reached Wednesday for an update.