IPUC dismisses complaint over smart meter

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SANDPOINT — The Idaho Public Utilities Commission is dismissing a complaint filed by a Bonner County woman who contends Avista Corp.’s smart meters have harmful emissions and can be used to surveil homes.

Mary Baenen filed an urgent petition with the commission in October of last year to allow consumers to use analog meters instead of radio-frequency/electromagnetic radiation-emitting smart meters. Baenen argued smart meters are rated as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization and can be used to obtain confidential information on homes, which violates the constitutional prohibition against illegal searches and seizures.

Baenen further argued that Avista’s sale to Canada’s Hydro One Ltd. only complicates matters.

“Putting public information in the hands of a foreign country and risking national security by selling to a foreign country is obviously not consistent with (the) public interest,” Baenen said in the petition.

The commission issued a summons last November directing Avista to answer Baenen’s complaint.

The company said Baenen’s residence was fitted with a digital electric meter equipped with a low-power radio transmitter which sends readings to Avista’s meter readers or fixed equipment mounted in the field. The transmitted communicates the data every 15 minutes in increments of less than a second, totaling less than minute per day.

Moreover, emissions from transmitting antenna are similar to emissions from cordless phones, wireless routers and baby monitors.

“However, the radio frequency power level of the meter transmitter, and the new generation of smart meters, which are placed outside the home, is significantly lower than those associated with many of those household items listed above,” David Meyer, Avista’s vice president and chief counsel, said in the company’s response.

The commission noted that it had taken up health and safety issues raised by Baenen in 2012 and held that there was insufficient demonstrable and credible evidence that meters present legitimate safety or communications concerns.

“Baenen’s complaint does not alter that finding, as it present no evidence beyond the personal assertions of Ms. Baenen, that the smart meters are a health risk or privacy concern. Rather, record evidence shows that the smart meters now being utilized by Idaho utilities are safe and otherwise comply with Idaho Code,” commission President Paul Kjellander and commissioners Kristine Rape and Eric Anderson said in a Feb. 2 order.

Keith Kinnaird can be reached by email at kkinnaird@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow him on Twitter @KeithDailyBee.

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