A crush of people alarmed about the imminent installation of “smart meters” crowded the Payson Town Council meeting last week, hoping to convince the town to pass a resolution opposing the automated transmitters that intermittently send information on electricity use to Arizona Public Service.
However, Payson Mayor Kenny Evans said the town has no authority over APS and the installation of the high-tech meters, which deliver about 1,0000th the dose of radiation as a cell phone.
However, the overflow crowd of perhaps 150 people pleaded with the town council to follow the lead of a small Texas town where the council voted to oppose installation of the new “smart meters” in Payson.
Shirley Dye, a member of both the Payson School Board and the Northern Gila County Sanitary District board, said, “we’re just looking for you as the Payson Town Council to understand there are a lot of people who have a lot of concerns. We’re not conspiracy theorists. There’s some real data out there that supports problems with privacy issues and the whole smart grid that is computerizes. If it’s computerized, it can be hacked and our electricity turned off.”
Darlene Yonker, head of the Payson Tea Party, which helped organize the protest at the council meeting, said, “I believe smart meters may represent a huge health risk ... They are a surveillance devices, a sending-and-receiving device, which I believe violates the Fourth Amendment.”
Lew Levenson said, “You say, ‘Well, that’s not even as bad as cell phones,’ except that cell phones are not that good for us either.”
A flier handed out at the meeting said, “APS plans to install bio-hazardous pulsed microwave ‘smart’ meters in July. They represent the largest invasion of privacy in our history and violate our Fourth Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. We must protect our safe, analog meter way of life.”
The flier continued, “APS wants us to be docile captives while they make money. APS has chosen us to suffer harm as captive human guinea pigs!”
The smart meters violate the Nuremberg Code, the flier said, which set restrictions on experimentation on human subjects in response to the atrocities in the Nazi death camps.
A fact sheet prepared by APS indicates that a cell phone exposes a user to about 1,000 times as much electromagnetic radiation as an APS smart meter. “The automated meters give APS no indication of who are customers are, what they are doing.”
The fact sheet indicated that a cell phone close to the ear exposes the user to 1 milliwatt per square centimeter of energy. A microwave at a distance of two feet exposes a user to .05 milliwatts. An automated meter on the other side of the room creates an exposure of .004 milliwatts per square centimeter and a smart meter 10 feet away about .0009 of a milliwatt.
The smart meters transmit information for 1.5 seconds every four hours, according to a fact sheet produced by Elster, which makes the APS meters.
Researchers have conducted repeated major studies on the health effects of cell phones and found no evidence of a health risk. A National Cancer Institute fact sheet concluded no study has yet turned up any evidence in cell cultures, animals or humans that cell phone signals can cause cancer.
However, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified radiofrequency fields as “possibly carcinogenic to humans.”
On the other hand, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Federal Communications Commission have all concluded that existing studies don’t support a connection between cell phone use and any health effects. Those studies all involve maybe 1,000 times more energy than smart meters.
The APS fact sheet also said the installation of smart meters did not result in an increase in bills. In fact, the automated meters ought to reduce the cost of reading the old, analog meters and therefore reduce costs. APS allows homeowners to opt out of having a smart meter if they pay a surcharge to reflect the higher cost of reading the meter.
The council listened to the parade of speakers, before Evans reiterated that the council has no jurisdiction over APS.
However, he did offer to ask APS and the Corporation Commission to hold a public hearing on the issue, a suggestion which drew applause.