Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Utility Blackmail: PG&E Threatens City of Sebastopol’s Service

Dangerous gangs of senior citizens running smart meter installers from the streets of Sebastopol has scared PG&E out of the town completely. Dangerous gangs of senior citizens running smart meter installers from the streets of Sebastopol (along with the local police department) have now scared PG&E out of the town completely.
In response to the City of Sebastopol’s recent ordinance (pdf) prohibiting “smart” meter installation, and the council’s willingness to use police powers to enforce that ordinance, Pacific Gas & Electric Company is now essentially threatening to disconnect the entire community of 7,000+ people.
The city council is reasonably insisting that the utility hold off on installation pending the outcome of the CPUC “opt-out” proceeding to decide how communities who refuse the meters will be treated (a decision by the Judge is expected in a matter of weeks but apparently PG&E can’t wait).
By refusing routine maintenance in the city, PG&E is using its power to provide (or take away) utility service, and its hefty legal war chest to intimidate and blackmail this small city in Sonoma County, who never asked for any trouble.  They just don’t want “smart” Digital Utility Meters in town.
The dispute has gotten so bad that PG&E is now refusing even to carry out gas pipeline safety work in the city, according to Sebastopol City Manager Larry McLaughlin (unbelievable considering the deaths that took place in San Bruno):
Then earlier this week, McLaughlin said, PG&E said it was ceasing all operations in the city, including the marking of underground gas lines and work on the $23.5 million Barlow project, the city’s largest development project in years.
And Helen Burt, Chief Customer Officer of PG&E who admitted subscribing to activists private e-mail lists-
 ”said she told employees she met with on Wednesday to be ‘situationally-aware’ while they are working in the city.
“We may be calling law enforcement ourselves,” she said.
This is what utility service has come to in Northern California ladies and gentlemen.  Threats, groundless suspicions, and intimidation.  Not your friendly local utility any longer.   Sorry June Cleaver.
Sandi Maurer, whose EMF Safety Network is based in Sebastopol, and has done widespread outreach in the community on the wireless health issue, had this to say about the situation, and specifically the wildly misleading op-ed columns coming out of mainstream news sources like the Press-Democrat.
“We don’t want to be at war with our communities,” Burt said.
Then don’t be, PG&E.  You started this war with your customers, after all.
Stand strong Sebastopol.  You are in good company.   This is where the rubber hits the road.  You have a right to keep Wellington Energy (PA-based smart meter installers) out of town- and keep the lights on.   PG&E- and their enablers- should be ashamed of themselves for disrespecting local democracy and forcing an unwanted system.
Local governments like Sebastopol have the power to revoke franchise agreements with the utility, and develop their own renewable power resources. That means thousands fewer inflated electric and gas bills going into shareholder accounts.
They are our homes and our communities, not the utilities’.  If the problems with smart meters aren’t resolved soon, then communities have the right to seek alternatives to utility service altogether.   Let’s start an off-the-grid revolution, and take back our power!  Then when the utility threatens to disconnect, we’ll say, “that’s cool, pull the plug–  we’re ready.”

On Mar 10, 2013, at 11:31 PM, Emf Refugees wrote:

For now, Sebastopol backs off SmartMeter ban

Posted by PD staff in Cities on March 7th, 2013 tags: ,
Sebastopol has temporarily stopped enforcing its recently-enacted moratorium on the installation of SmartMeters, citing shaky legal ground and the risk of being sued.
The development comes amid growing tensions over the city’s ordinance, including an incident last week in which police responded after a Sebastopol resident called 911 to report that a PG&E worker was installing a SmartMeter in violation of the moratorium, an act that carries a $500 penalty.
Smartmeter 3:2The worker left without being cited, said Larry McLaughlin, Sebastopol’s city manager and attorney.
PG&E responded by stopping all utility work in Sebastopol.
McLaughlin on Wednesday said he ordered the temporary halt to enforcement of the moratorium after the California Public Utilities Commission on Friday sent him a letter calling the ban “unlawful and unenforceable.”
The City Council hastily scheduled a closed session meeting Tuesday night to discuss the legality of the ordinance and whether it exposes the city to potential civil liabilities, McLaughlin said.
He said no actions were taken Tuesday and that the council is scheduled to revisit the issue at another closed session meeting set for 8:30 a.m. March 14 at City Hall.
SmartMeter opponents expressed dismay Wednesday at the city backing away from the moratorium. The city is ground zero for resistance to the devices, which critics fear can cause ailments ranging from cancer to headaches from exposure to the electromagnetic frequencies that the devices emit.
“Sebastopol needs to continue to stand up to CPUC and PG&E. The CPUC’s mission is to ensure safe and reliable utility service, and they have not proven that SmartMeters are safe,” said Sandi Maurer of Sebastopol, founder of the activist group EMF Safety Network.
McLaughlin and Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver met with senior PG&E officials Wednesday to discuss the SmartMeter controversy.
According to McLaughlin, the PG&E officials present included Sanford Hartman, a company vice president and managing director of law, and Cliff Gleicher, senior director of the SmartMeter program.
PG&E requested the meeting, according to McLaughlin, who declined to state specifically what the group discussed.
The meeting was the culmination of tensions sparked Feb. 21 by the City Council enacting the moratorium, effective immediately.
McLaughlin said a PG&E representative informed the city a day or two after the council acted that the company was going to challenge the moratorium in court.
Then earlier this week, McLaughlin said, PG&E said it was ceasing all operations in the city, including the marking of underground gas lines and work on the $23.5 million Barlow project, the city’s largest development project in years.
McLaughlin said at Wednesday’s meeting he requested PG&E resume “normal activities” in Sebastopol. However, he said the city is still asking that the company not install SmartMeters until the CPUC resolves whether communities, and not just individuals, can opt-out of getting the devices.
PG&E has 22,800 gas and electrical meters at homes and businesses in the Sebastopol area and has upgraded 7,500 of them to SmartMeters.
About 1,100 customers have opted out of the change, representing fewer than 10 percent of customers.
In a separate meeting with The Press Democrat’s editorial board Wednesday, Helen Burt, a senior vice president with PG&E and the company’s chief customer officer, said the utility has decided to halt installation of SmartMeters in Sebastopol until further notice.
She said she met with more than 100 PG&E employees in Santa Rosa Wednesday to discuss their concerns about being cited by the police or confronted by angry residents while working in Sebastopol.
She said the fact the police were called last week “didn’t sit well with our employees, who as you can imagine were doing their job.”
She said the employee who was visited by police last week was “doing routine maintenance work” on a “meter set” that may have not been related to SmartMeters.
McLaughlin said Weaver, however, informed PG&E officials Wednesday in their meeting at City Hall that the employee involved in last week’s incident had installed three SmartMeters that day and was working on his fourth when police were contacted.
Whatever the case, Burt said her concern is that Sebastopol residents will start calling the police on PG&E workers, some who call the city their home, for all kinds of things not related to SmartMeters.
She said she told employees she met with on Wednesday to be “situationally-aware” while they are working in the city.
“We may be calling law enforcement ourselves,” she said.
Burt said about 50 California communities have sought moratoriums on the SmartMeters, but she said only Sebastopol went the step of enforcing violations.
But she and other company officials on Wednesday struck a conciliatory tone. “We don’t want to be at war with our communities,” Burt said.
McLaughlin said Sebastopol “possibly” has taken a “more aggressive” stance toward SmartMeters. But he said that’s not a reason for PG&E to discontinue work unrelated to installation of the devices in the city.
“We can’t prevent citizens from getting upset, but the police will come on scene if that’s the case and we’ll sort it out,” he said.
He also made the case that the city’s moratorium should not be construed as a “forever thing” because it’s tied to the CPUC’s discussions about communities being able to opt-out of SmartMeters. But presumably Sebastopol leaders would consider a permanent ban should state power authorities give them that option.
Burt said PG&E is considering beefing up outreach in Sebastopol to inform residents of what the company is doing in the city and to provide information about the options residents have with regard to SmartMeters.
PG&E customers can opt-out of the program by calling 1-866-743-0263. They must pay a $75 setup charge as well as a $10 monthly fee, or $5 for those who meet certain income criteria.
A company spokeswoman later in the day Wednesday said that PG&E will continue gas line work in Sebastopol. Still undecided is to what degree the company will be operating in the city, however.
“It’s worth taking a step back and having these conversations before we determine next steps,” said Brittany McKannay with PG&E.


Brought to you by 

EMF Refugee: 
The International Coalition for an Electromagnetic Safe Planet (IC-ESP)