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“Smart Meter” debate continues on the E-Board

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

The local fight over Smart Meters took an unusual turn this week, when Carbondale’s Environmental Board got a look at the question of whether the growing amount of atmospheric electromagnetic radiation [EM] is linked to the disappearance of honey bees and the disorientation of migratory birds as well as potentially posing a health hazard to humans.

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Carbondale residents Jody Powell and Cedar Rose, along with visiting activist Gary Duncan from Pagosa Springs, Colorado, believe the links are real and told the E-Board members the connections should be viewed as warnings signs of electromagnetic pollution that is threatening wildlife as well as human health.

But members of the E-Board, as it is known, were not quite so sure, and asked Powell and Rose to work with the board’s subcommittee on Energy & Transportation to come up with a recommendation that the E-Board can consider.

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At issue is the recent news that Holy Cross Energy, the electric utility co-operative that serves much of Carbondale, plans on installing what Holy Cross calls its “enhanced metering system” on the exteriors of local homes. The new meters are meant to replace the old, “analog” meters with revolving wheels showing the rate of power usage by a household.

The other utility serving Carbondale, Xcel, had openly initiated an experimental program involving installation of “smart meters” in the city of Boulder, Colorado, starting in 2007, known as “SmartGridCity” and touted as a new way of managing power usage and providing data that would ultimately mean lower usage and lower costs to consumers.

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But the program ran into problems that included resistance from people with concerns similar to those expressed by Powell, Rose and Duncan.

Costs ballooned to $44.5 million, which was to be partly offset by the utility’s statewide customer base, and the program never truly got off the ground, according to a 2012 article in The Denver Post.

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Along the way, doubters began questioning the veracity of the utility’s claims, and began unearthing information about human health problems blamed on the smart meters, fires in homes they said were believed to be caused by the smart meters, and other problems.

An Xcel official, at a meeting in late May with the Carbondale trustees, maintained that the utility currently has no intention of trying the same thing in Carbondale as it tried in Boulder.

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And Holy Cross officials at the same meeting stressed that the meters they are planning to install are not the same as the “smart meters” that have generated controversy and concern in other parts of the country and the world.

But those who feel the new meters pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the citizenry remain on the offensive.

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At Monday’s E-Board meeting Powell, who is a naturopathic health practitioner in Carbondale, spoke of the cumulative effects of EM, the growing amount of EM radiation locally, nationally and internationally, and of a growing number of people who turn off their cell phones and other personal electronic devices to avoid constant exposure.

She also said she and Rose have tried but failed to obtain exact information about the EM frequencies that would be broadcast by the new meters, as a way of gauging whether the technology would pose health risks.

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“We are hitting a wall,” she told the E-Board.

That was one reason, Powell said, that she and the others were at the E-Board meeting — to enlist the help of a quasi-official board with the city’s sanction behind it, to get more information from the utilities.

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Duncan, who said he was diagnosed with hypersensitivity to EM radiation and certain chemicals 24 years ago, has been working to stop the installation of smart meters for more than two decades.

He, Powell and Rose provided numerous articles about an international movement dedicated to such resistance, from the Netherlands in Europe to Australia.

The articles, which can be obtained from town records, describe scientific findings that the EM radiation is contributing or causing the collapse of beehives around the world, and that the radiation has been linked to erratic flights of migratory birds because the radiation interferes with the natural guiding mechanisms in the species affected.

Duncan also directed the E-Board members to check into resistance efforts in California, where some “smart-meter” programs have ended up in court over charges that the utilities involved were basing their programs on invalid or insufficient research and threatening the health of their customers.

“We are asking the board to work with us,” Rose told the E-Board members, explaining that she and her partners lack the clout to force the utilities to give up needed information.

In addition to the doubts and concerns about the new technology, Duncan told the board members, “The smart meter program is in a state of collapse,” due in part to the determination of detractors to root out information disproving the claims of the industry.

The members of the E-Board seemed disposed to go along with the request for assistance, although they were not prepared to do so on Monday night.

Instead, they asked that Powell and Rose work with the subcommittee, first by providing the subcommittee members with information about the issue, and with questions that could be put to Holy Cross.

“It’s real easy to go down the rabbit hole in some of these discussions,” board chair Jeff Lauckhart told The Sopris Sun on Tuesday. “I think the board is kind of unsure about the science.”

He said the subcommittee, which is made up of Lauckhart and members Chris Ellis and Scott Mills, will be meeting with Powell and Rose over the coming weeks, and may have a report for the full E-Board by its regular meeting in late July.

Published in The Sopris Sun on July 2, 2015.