Two people affiliated with a group that has strongly opposed the installation of SmartMeters were arrested or cited in Santa Cruz County this afternoon in connection with a demonstration. Before tonight, one such arrest had been made, although protests seeking to prevent the radio-transmitting meters’ installation have been ongoing. Josh Hart, of Scotts Valley-based Stop Smart Meters!, said by phone that he had been released from jail tonight.
Hart was also arrested on June 21 for blocking the doorway of the PG&E payment center in Capitola. A sheriff’s sergeant confirmed that one man had been arrested on suspicion of obstructing free movement and that a second person had been cited for a misdemeanor outside a PG&E facility near Capitola at about 2:15 p.m. On Monday, about 50 demonstrators gathered outside a PG&E facility to prevent trucks belonging to the company’s subcontractor tasked with installing the meters from doing so.
The following day, some 25 protesters continued demonstrating at the facility. Crews with Wellington Energy have been installing the meters to replace analog ones throughout the county. Hart said that nearly all of the protesters were prepared to be arrested for the cause because of what they say are alarming health risks posed by the meters and the electromagnetic radiation they emit. That radiation, Hart said, will cause long-term harm to people, animals and plants. “People are really increasingly angry the more they find out about the program,” Hart said.
“It’s going down like a lead balloon here in Santa Cruz County.” According to PG&E, the technology aims to help customers conserve energy and save money. The data collected hourly by the meters is periodically transmitted by radio frequency to access points that gather data from nearby meters and relay it to PG&E. Customers can access their usage data through their online accounts.
The meters’ installation is part of a statewide effort led by the California Public Utilities Commission to upgrade the state’s energy infrastructure. PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said that customers who have concerns about the wireless transmissions can reach out to the utility by calling the SmartMeter hotline and requesting to be placed on a delay list. “Our goal is to address our customers who have concerns,” Smith said.
“We certainly would encourage them to request to be placed on that delay list.” Smith said that the CPUC is evaluating options in which a customer’s meter could be placed in a mode that would prevent radio transmissions. Fees would be associated with that “radio-off” option, he said. A moratorium on installations of new meters in unincorporated parts of the county issued by the Board of Supervisors has placed the sheriff’s office in a bind.
Although the sheriff’s office is allowed to enforce the county ordinance, the CPUC has oversight of the meter installations. Heidi Ross, the demonstrator who was cited this afternoon, said that the group gathered outside the Wellington Energy installation yard at 38th Avenue and Portola Drive at about 6:30 a.m.The group had banners and signs and passed out leaflets, literature and lawn signs to raise public awareness about the possible health risks associated with the electromagnetic fields created by the SmartMeters and the network of access points.
“Even if I want to opt out, if my neighbors have it, I’m going to potentially get sick,” said Rose, who said she does not own or use a cellphone. Rose said that the group had returned to the facility after lunch and found that the workers were preparing to roll out with their fleet of white trucks.”All the trucks have the company name on the side,” Rose said.
“They’ve gotten white magnets to place over the Wellington Energy decal so that they can somehow be incognito as they go into our backyards.”She said she stood in the way of a truck and that even though a sheriff’s deputy told her she would be cited, she did not have the heart to move. “I just couldn’t, my heart wouldn’t let me,” Rose said. “They want to spin it as this environmental thing, and it’s not.”
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