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Sebastopol City Council rejects SmartMeter moratorium; foes vow to fight

Another attempt at passing a moratorium on the installation of PG&E SmartMeters in Sebastopol failed Tuesday, but supporters of the freeze say their fight continues unabated.

"We will never give up in the city of Sebastopol," said Sandi Maurer of the EMF Network, a local activist group, who said she plans to bring complaints that the meters are being installed improperly to the city's attorney.

Mayor Guy Wilson, however, said he doesn't expect the council to revisit the issue anytime soon. Tuesday was the second time since October city leaders have turned down a moratorium on the meters, which transmit usage data by radio waves.

"Now that we have had this vote, I don't see — at least in the near future — a situation that would warrant bringing it back again," he said on Wednesday.

Still, strong feelings remain against the meters. The 3-2 vote Tuesday came despite a long list of speakers who laid into the wireless devices for a host of ills, including health maladies, invasions of privacy and increased risks of fire.

But for Wilson, the issue boiled down to jurisdiction. Simply the town cannot enforce such a restriction without trespassing into an area controlled statewide by the California Public Utilities Commission, he said.

Even passing the ban as a symbolic gesture against the mandatory installation of SmartMeters would risk major liability if someone took the vote literally and used it to affect a citizen's arrest against a PG&E agent — or as a reason for stronger vigilance, he said.

"I feel it's not appropriate to pass a law knowing it can't be enforced, knowing we do not have jurisdiction," said Wilson, an attorney who was joined by Kathleen Shaffer and Patrick Slayter in his vote.

But Councilwoman Sarah Gurney and Vice Mayor Michael Kyes disagreed, saying they saw value in adding to public pressure on PG&E by joining other towns and counties in the state that have passed restrictions against the meters.

Mendocino and Marin counties and the Humboldt County city of Rio Dell have enacted moratoriums as have other areas.

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