In response to residents’ concerns about health and privacy risks, the Town Board on May 24 voted unanimously to prohibit the use of so-called smart electrical meters in Woodstock, although the town supervisor acknowledged that the board may lack the legal authority to enforce the ban.
The board’s action followed complaints by a local resident, Steve Romine, that a member of his household became ill after Central Hudson installed an encoder receiver transmitter (ERT) meter at the residence. While Central Hudson denied installing any smart meters in the local area, Romine, citing Internet research findings, maintained that ERT devices belong to the “smart meter family.”
When he replaced the ERT device with a standard analog meter and notified Central Hudson that he had done so, said Romine, the utility company disconnected power to his house.
According to research conducted by councilman Ken Panza, anecdotal evidence suggests that the levels of radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by smart meters may be associated with the development of various disorders, ranging from headaches to heart problems and joint pain, in individuals who are unusually sensitive to that form of radiation.
Smart meters reportedly enable utility companies to tailor the supply of electricity to the measured level of demand, at a time when power is increasingly provided by renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind installations. The generation of electricity by such means is affected by environmental factors — the presence or absence of wind or sunlight, for example — that are beyond the control of the utilities.
Panza also reported that local prohibitions on smart meters have proved legally toothless in other localities. Several communities that enacted such measures “have quickly found out that their bans are unlawful and unenforceable,” wrote the councilman in a May 26 e-mail. In a May 28 interview, town supervisor Jeremy Wilber admitted that Woodstock’s ban on smart meters might not withstand a court challenge. “We are absolutely aware that we might have no authority whatsoever” to enforce the ban, he said.
Meanwhile, Wilber provided a copy of a May 28 letter that he wrote to Central Hudson, in which he asked the utility to restore service to the Romine residence and to undertake a campaign of public outreach if it planned a widespread installation of smart meters or similar devices.
“The town some years ago replaced analog water meters with battery-powered devices that cut the cost of quarterly readings considerably,” wrote Wilber. “The town did this after considerable public notice, public meetings, and ample press coverage. The town supervisor’s residence was the first to have its meter replaced, which (resulted in) a front-page article in the local paper. Long story short, the public was engaged, not surprised, by the technology.
“It would behoove Central Hudson, before sapping out the old analog meters for the (newer) model, to initiate similar public outreach. The town cannot support the utility’s program of stealth.”