Arizona utility customers who don’t want their electricity supplier to install wireless ‘smart meters’ that monitor usage will have to play for the privilege, AzCentral reports.
Regulators gave Arizona Public Service — the largest power provider in Arizona – the go-ahead to charge an up-front fee of $50 along with a $5 addition to their customers’ monthly bill to avoid having the meter installed at their home.
Along with other electricity providers across the country, APS is attempting to eliminate the meter readers who make monthly rounds to customers’ homes, checking on usage for billing purposes. So-called ‘smart meters’ use radio signals to transmit customers’ electricity usage directly to the utility.
Over 20,000 customers of the more than one million customers that APS serves object to the higher fees, saying the meters are unsafe and may be responsible for creating adverse health issues.
Appearing before the panel, Scottsdale resident Floris Freshman said of the meters, “They are microwave weaponry.”
Freshman, who appeared before the regulators wearing a bicycle helmet covered in tin foil and patterned cloth, said she suffered a head injury long ago and is highly sensitive to the meters’ signals, adding that the helmet seems to help protect her from the unwanted exposure to radio frequencies.
Other opponents of the meters complained of headaches, sleeplessness and other health concerns, with some noting that even if they opted to refuse a smart meter, they are unable to avoid the radio frequencies emitted by their neighbors’ meters. They also expressed concern over higher exposure for people living in apartments or housing where several meters can be clustered in one location.
Representing the smart meter opponents, Martin Blank, a retired associate professor from the Columbia University Department of Physiology and Cellular Biophysics, said that the possible health effects from the meters are not worth the benefits.
“We know a lot about the way these radio frequencies and power signals can activate the DNA,” he said. “The very earliest biological materials activated (during tests) were the linings of the cavity that protect our brain.”
Utilities call the meters a safe and efficient way to measure customers’ usage and that the radio frequencies they use are harmless.
Cindy Debac, a smart meter opponent from Scottsdale who said her dog died of cancer six months after one of the devices was installed on her home, disagreed, saying, “There are hundreds and hundreds of people who say ‘yes, I’m sick.’ The smart meters need to be banned from our state and not only that but from our country.”
According to Debac, she said she can feel when a neighbor’s meter is replaced with a smart meter.
Debac runs a website, EMFdoctors.com, that sells equipment that monitors radio frequencies along with items to shield people from them, including $1,100 bed canopies.
Speaking with a reporter Debac said, “Don’t tell the commission that. Do I have a vast interest in this, yeah. Do I have a vast interest in keeping people alive? Yes I do.”
APS had earlier proposed an opt-out program with a $75 fee up front plus $30 a month for customers who prefer to keep their old meters.