The debate over PG&E's controversial SmartMeters will be renewed by the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday, with opponents hoping that this time, with two new council members, a year-long moratorium would be enacted.
"We have new council people; there may be a different slant now," said Vice Mayor Michael Kyes, who supported a moratorium on SmartMeters during his council campaign last fall. "There is also a lot of new information out."
Kyes plans to ask the council to reconsider calling for a one-year moratorium on the installation of the controversial meters.
"I don't know whether the wireless transmission causes a problem or not, but a lot of people in the community believe it does," Kyes said. "There is no economic reason for consumers to have it. ... I don't see any problem in putting it off for a year."
Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer, in a separate action, intends to ask the council to support Assembly Bill 37 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, which would allow cities to opt out of PG&E's SmartMeter installation program.
PG&E says its meters are safe and the installation falls solely under the jurisdiction of the California Public Utilities Commission, not individual cities and counties.
Installations are continuing in Sonoma County. In Santa Rosa, 67,000 out of 90,000 electric meters and 56,000 out of 75,000 natural gas meters have been upgraded, although installation in the Sebastopol area has lagged.
Nonetheless, Sandi Maurer of the Sebastopol-based EMF Safety Network an anti-SmartMeter group, backs both proposals.
"I am hoping they go for both; it is logical, it makes sense," she said. "If you support the right to opt out, you should support a moratorium that will give the people of Sebastopol a better likelihood of being able to opt out."
SmartMeters, which transmit usage data by radio waves, have been the subject of long, contentious and emotional debates before the Sebastopol council on four previous occasions.
Opponents contend the radio transmissions are not safe, the effects have not been studied adequately and the radio waves can make them ill.
On Oct. 7, the council decided the city does not have jurisdiction, that a moratorium would only be symbolic and it could open the city to costly litigation if the city tried to enforce it.
"In my opinion, the legal landscape hasn't changed since the last time we considered the subject," said Mayor Guy Wilson, an attorney. "Different communities have done moratoriums, but I am not aware of any changes in the law."
Wilson said he still opposes a moratorium, even as a symbolic gesture, but he said he sees value in debating the issue once again, a fourth time SmartMeters will be debated by the council.
"I want to get us to a point where the community would understand the city government cannot enact a moratorium that is enforceable," Wilson said. "Nevertheless, there are people who want to see these passed, even if there is no jurisdiction, as a political statement. I don't think it is appropriate. It invites disrespect for the laws we do pass."
At the October meeting, the vote against a moratorium was 4-1, with then-mayor Sarah Gurney casting the only vote in support.
Since that meeting, Mendocino and Marin counties and the Humboldt County city of Rio Dell have enacted moratoriums.