Utility’s smart meter opt-out plan on hold

The issue of smart meters — more specifically, the possibility of an opt-out program for customers — will have to wait for another day.

At the same meeting as approving its facility fee increase, the Lassen Municipal Utility District decided to wait rather than move forward with the matter of an opt-out program for John and Laura Mooberry.

After discussions with the couple, the LMUD board postponed the decision to allow them the ability to opt-out of a smart meter until its next monthly meeting, Aug. 27.

Some at the utility have concerns surrounding the question: if they do offer the Mooberrys the ability to opt out of having a smart meter on their property, will others follow suit? Those at LMUD believe doing so may counteract its endeavor to make the program more efficient.

Before the Mooberrys spoke, LMUD general manager Doug Smith said that the board had previously chosen not to offer an exemption to the smart meter installation. The primary reason for not offering exemptions, according to Smith, was to increase efficiencies and improve its service to customers.

“If we offer an exemption, I believe that you’d have a handful of people … scattered around the county,” said Smith. He emphasized that it wouldn’t take many to lose efficiency, “You’re still sending the truck out, driving almost as many miles to get to a handful of meters as you would have been to go and read every meter.”

One of the board members Jess Urionaguena also spoke about his thoughts on the subject. “The utilities that do have exemptions … the customer picks up the cost. We can’t send a meter reader … out to Litchfield, to Eagle Lake. It’s the same amount of fuel and same amount of time.”

John Mooberry approached the board at the meeting to request the exemption of the meter on his property. Mooberry told the board that he did so because he personally didn’t want something in his house that he didn’t want there. He said, “We should have personal choices. Especially when it comes to our homes and our safety,” and that he was concerned about personal liberty.

Mooberry proposed either a self-report, or “as I think you guys have done before, is average it out over a year.” He told the board he would be willing to pay on his bill yearly.

His major concern however, was that his wife Laura did not want the smart meter on the property. “After 45 years of marriage, I’ve got her back,” he told the board.

LMUD counsel, Eugene Chittock asked Mooberry if he could outline a specific health concern.

Mooberry told the board his wife was very concerned about the potential health and safety hazards of the meters. Mooberry said that what got his attention was an inconclusive study by the American Cancer Society that Mooberry said, “couldn’t rule out that radio frequencies don’t cause health issues.”

Urionaguena interjected, “Your meters don’t use radio frequencies.”

Smith also responded to Mooberry, “These meters use absolutely no radio frequency. They’re a power line carrier technology, and the communication signals are transmitted over the power line.”

Chittock took the conversation in another direction and asked them if they were willing to pay another $50 per month to keep their current meter. “I’m trying to put a price on your health, I guess. The point being that if they … figure out what it’s going to cost to send a person around to check these meters, whether it’s once a year or once a month, whatever can be worked out, that is going to be divided … by the exception.”

LMUD assistant general manager Patrick Holley encouraged the couple to look through the information the utility had on the subject.

Urionaguena requested the utility’s IT manager Nick Dominguez to demonstrate to the couple the analog meter compared to the smart meter.

He also asked the Mooberrys if they would be willing to at least take the next month to go over the information with Dominguez. The Mooberrys agreed.

Dominguez also mentioned that with the outage management system that the utility is putting in place, “the less participation that we have per meter, the less accurate that system is going to be for us to be able to pinpoint outages quickly and roll trucks for that.”