Amidst an outcry of concerns over both the health impacts and possible overcharging by Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s new line of digital electricity readers, San Rafael Assemblyan Jared Huffman wants an independent agency to evaluate Smart Meters.
PG&E began installing the meters through Marin in July despite calls from the Marin Association of Realtors and the Marin County Board of Supervisors to halt the installations until concerns can be addressed.
Huffman has asked the California Council on Science and Technology to determine whether Federal Communications Commission standards for SmartMeters are sufficiently protective when taking into account current exposure levels to radio-frequency and electromagnetic fields. In addition, he has asked the agency to assess whether additional technology-specific standards are needed for SmartMeters and other devices that are commonly found in and around homes, to ensure adequate protection from adverse health effects.
Huffman said he decided to ask for the review based on concerns raised by residents in his district, which includes all of Marin and southern Sonoma County.
In a recent letter to Karl Pistel, chairman of the council, Huffman requested an independent, science-based study that would help policy makers and the general public resolve the debate over whether SmartMeters present a significant risk to public safety.
SmartMeters are being installed under the authority of the California Public Utilities Commission, following a series of decisions spanning from 2006 through 2009.
PG&E and the PUC maintain that electromagnetic fields emitted from these SmartMeters and the radio-frequency power associated with the wireless radios fall within FCC regulations, saying that SmartMeters emit fewer radio frequencies than the amount allowable for cellular telephones, microwave ovens and wireless Internet services.
Critics, however, contend that those standards are inadequate and do not take cumulative exposures and other factors into account.
Huffman said it is time to put the issue to independent scientists.
"If the FCC standards are deemed adequate, then the SmartMeter program can move forward with greater public confidence in the safety of the devices," Huffman said. "If the standards are inadequate, we need to know that so that we can get to work on better standards."
He said he supports the goal of using SmartMeter technology to help consumers become more energy efficient and achieve substantial statewide energy savings, but said it has to be done right.