Excerpted from The Bay Citizen
By Annette Fuentes, February 9, 2011
Charges were dropped today against two West Marin County women who were arrested for protesting the installation of PG&E’s SmartMeters in Inverness late last year. But controversy over the wireless meters shows no signs of abating . . .
Katharina Sandizell, of Pt. Reyes Station, and June DiMorente of Inverness, were among residents who blocked utility trucks as they were deployed in the town on Dec. 30 to install the meters in homes. The two were arrested on charges of obstructing traffic and failure to obey an officer.
But at a hearing this morning, county District Attorney Edward Berberian decided not to file criminal charges . . . the DA said that the SmartMeter controversy had nothing to do with the decision not to prosecute her.
Sandizell, who practices homeopathy, is also the co-founder with her husband, Barry Smith, of the Environmental Health Coalition of West Marin, a nonprofit advocacy and policy group. The SmartMeter has galvanized activists in Marin who oppose the use of the devices for health and privacy reasons. The meters, which transmit data on energy use back to PG&E in frequent pulses, emit low-levels of radiation, much like cell phones. While the utility has argued that there is no health risk from the meters, opponents like Sandizell and her husband say there is no definitive research on safe exposures.
“PG&E has conducted a campaign of partial and misleading information,” said Barry Smith. “They say, ‘You use a cell phone.’ Can anyone tell me if you put a SmartMeter on a wall outside a bedroom with a new-born infant what the impact is? There is no study.”
On Jan. 4, Marin County’s Board of Supervisors, reacting to resident concerns, passed a moratorium on installation of SmartMeters. Their action followed a similar ordinance passed in the town of Fairfax in August. The county ordinance applies to all unincorporated areas of Marin. But neither Sheriff Robert Doyle or the DA will enforce the new ordinance by stopping utility workers as they attempt to install the meters and issuing citations.
“It’s not an enforceable ordinance,” said Doyle. “PG&E derives its authority to install the meters from the CPUC [California Public Utilities Commission]. I conferred with a number of attorneys, and the DA has publicly stated that if any law enforcement issued citations, he would not prosecute them.”
Doyle said he feared the legal liability his office and the county would face if his deputies detained utility workers for installing the meters. “I have suggested to all the people who send me e-mails opposing the SmartMeters that they should get a lawyer and sue PG&E,” Doyle said. “I don’t know why they want the government to make this a criminal matter.”
Susan Adams, president of the Board of Supervisors, acknowledged that the moratorium may have more symbolic than legal clout. “While we did go into this understanding it would be difficult to enforce, because the CPUC has ultimate authority, the hope was if enough jurisdictions made enough of these public statements, the government would pay attention and put people on the CPUC who represent the public’s concerns,” Adams said. “It doesn’t mean our options are exhausted. I have a meeting coming up soon with PG&E and I’m hoping we can have some constructive conversations about what alternatives there are for people who don’t want the meters installed” . . .