California PUC rejects requests for smart meter health checks and audit standards


San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — December 6, 2010 – The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has rejected requests for an enquiry into the health effects of Pacific Gas & Electric’s (PG&E) smart meters and for the adoption of smart meter audit standards.

The application for the health enquiry was brought by the EMF Safety Network, a coalition of business and property owners, citizens and PG&E ratepayers in northern California, which charged that the PUC  and other interested parties had not adequately addressed the health, environmental, and safety impacts related to widespread deployment of RF smart meter technologies.

Among other points the EMF Safety Network requested that PG&E submit an independently prepared RF emissions study, and that evidentiary hearings on RF health, environmental, and safety impacts should be scheduled, with an immediate moratorium on the installation of new smart meters pending completion and review of these.

In rejecting the application – which was protested by PG&E, with an application for dismissal – the PUC said that the RF emissions produced by smart meters is extremely small in comparison to the RF emissions from many other commonly used devices and far below the emission standards set by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which licenses or certifies the smart meters used by PG&E. Since the PUC generally does not delve into technical matters which fall within the expertise of another agency, in this case “we defer to the FCC, which possesses extensive expertise on its staff for evaluating and licensing or certifying smart meter devices that operate via the use of wireless technology.”

In its application for dismissal PG&E stated that under normal conditions at a distance of 10 feet, the momentary exposure to RF energy during a transmission burst from one of its smart meters is less than 1/six thousandth of the safety limits set by the FCC.
The application for the smart meter audit standards was brought by Certichron, Inc., a provider of third party time verification services. Specifically Certichron requested the PUC to open a rulemaking to establish requirements for any data processing or smart grid AMR/AMI systems for the digital content records they produce and store, which are admissible in evidence in the state and federal court systems.

However, the petition, which was opposed by San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas, was denied by the PUC on the grounds that it failed both to comply with Commission’s Rules of Practice and Procedure and to make a persuasive argument that opening a rulemaking could provide ratepayer benefits in excess of costs or could advance a statutory goal.

In their response SDG&E and SoCalGas argued that the petition was “a thinly-veiled attempt to rewrite the California Public Utilities Code.”