I did something uncharacteristic of me and out of my comfort zone – I testified in the Virginia Senate in support of SB 797, The Smart Meter Bill, on January 28, 2013. It was an interesting lesson in “government for the corporatists” that will stay with me for a long time. No longer do I trust that all of those we elect are going to do the right thing for the people who elected them.
When I arrived in the General Assembly Room B, the auditorium was packed with attorneys and lobbyists. I had to wait patiently two hours until the Senate adjourned its daily session; the Senators took a half hour break, and finally came to our hearing. It was an interesting two hours because I was able to see my government in action for which I voted and paid taxes
The Virginia Senate Commerce and Labor Committee held the hearing on SB 797 introduced by Senator Thomas A. Garrett. This bill would have prohibited any utility company from installing an advanced meter (Smart Meter) on private property or requiring the installation of one unless the customer requested it. If the utility had already installed a Smart Meter, they would have been required to replace it with an analog meter if the customer demanded it. If the customer refused the advanced meter (Smart Meter), the utility company would not have been allowed to charge a penalty or a higher rate.
It sounded too good to be true and it was. No sooner than the hearing started, we found out that the language of the bill had been changed at the last minute because it no longer agreed with the copies of the bill which the Senators had received in advance. We had copies as well and the language was no longer the same. The bill was now asking that people be given the right to opt-out or opt-in, whichever the committee decided.
Twenty private citizens lined up to testify in support of the bill. Each had been promised three minutes. Inexplicably, the Chairman of the committee ruled that only four could speak for a total of eight minutes! How would four people encapsulate the many issues with the smart meters in eight minutes? How could the other 16 who traveled from places far across the state to be there, be denied their right to be heard? One distraught lady started shouting at the chairman that she was losing her hearing because of the smart meter on her house. “I am the only one with a smart meter on my house. I want that meter off my property!” Showing no compassion, the chairman asked her to leave her prepared statement with the clerk.
As we testified, we were cross-examined by some Senators as if we were fabricating complaints like conspiracy theorists. A few smirks among the members were observed. One gentleman was asked if his very ill wife had a doctor’s written statement that her illness was caused by smart meters (she did).
I was asked by Senator Saslaw (Fairfax) if I was aware that having a cell phone from Sprint and putting it to my ear causes radiation exposure equal to smart meters. I immediately responded that I can make a choice whether I have a cell phone from Sprint or not or whether I put it to my ear. However, I do not have a choice in having a spying device such as the smart meter attached to my house by a monopolist supplier of electricity.
The utilities executives were allowed plenty of time, without interruptions or a time constraint. A larger utility company’s executive was asked if he knew of any instance where a smart meter caused a fire – the answer was no. PECO in Philadelphia had to halt smart meter installations because several fire officials found smart meters to have started home fires by exploding. The next question was if he knew of anyone who complained of health issues from smart meters – the answer was no. That is news to the many organizations who have conducted studies and tests on people who suffer debilitating illnesses from smart meters. (www.bioinitiative2012.org)
A second utility executive testified that they are saving money with smart meters, $2 million per year, by not having to send a meter reader to each home. Such savings are given back to consumers, he said, via lower rates. As a matter of fact, that is not true. There is a huge class action lawsuit in California in which citizens complain that rates have gone up by as much as ten times since the installation of smart meters.
None of the executives told the truth about the vulnerability of smart meters and the smart grid to solar flares and hackers. They concentrated on how much easier it would be to detect power outages. No mention was made of the fact that, cutting power and thermostat temps to homes during high demand via smart meters controlled from afar, enables utilities to save billions a year by not having to build extra capacity plants to store electricity in times of peak usage. One smaller utility company (from Danville) stated to the chairman that their customers will be allowed in their area to opt-out of smart meters.
No statement was made that the installation of smart meters is largely paid by consumers with taxpayer dollars and through higher rates. We have met last year with utilities regulators when utilities petitioned them to increase rates per kWh on a scale that would punish those who are careful with their consumption and reward those who are not.
The SB 797 bill to allow consumers to opt out of smart meters and not pay higher rates for their use of analog meters was passed by indefinitely in spite of all the evidence the sponsor, Senator Thomas A. Garrett, provided to the committee, and in spite of thousands of cases, lawsuits across the country, and official studies by reputable organization, such as the Bioinitiative 2012, Congressional Report Service, American Cancer Society, that smart meters cause negative health effects from radiation, house fires when the meters explode, serious cyber security issues, privacy issues in which information gathered through smart meters and obtained without a warrant is sold to third parties, higher electricity rates, and incorrect billing.
The nays recorded were: Senators Newman, Martin, and Obenshain.
The yeas recorded were: Watkins, Colgan, Saslaw, Norment, Stosch, Edwards, Wagner, Puckett, Herring, Stanley, and Alexander.
The mighty dollar rules; corporations are not interested in what happens to the little people and neither do politicians whom they support. The bill failed for now, but “we the people” are not giving up yet.
On a positive note, HB 1430, The Boneta Bill, the amendment to the Right to Farm Bill, passed with minor changes from subcommittee to full committee. It will be heard tomorrow. If it advances, it will be one victory against U.N. Agenda 21 and its local government proponents. Farmers will be allowed to sell whatever produce they grow without huge fines from supervisors who passed onerous regulations.