Arizona Corporation Commission
1200 W. Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Docket E-00000C-11-0328 Smart Meters
Docket E-01345A-13-0069 APS opt-out proposal
BEFORE THE ARIZONA CORPORATION COMMISSION
Arizona Public Service (APS) submitted an opt-out proposal on March 22, 2013, which was added to the newly created docket listed above.
We are pleased that APS accepts the need for an opt-out of these very controversial devices. However, we have several concerns regarding APS’ assumptions, assertions and proposal.
Health concerns are not “unfounded”
APS claims that the health concerns regarding smart meters “have proven unfounded”. This is not correct. There is no such proof. In fact, research that demonstrates there are biological effects is steadily accumulating.
APS cites the opinions of Dr. Leeka Kheifets, who is a paid consultant for APS as well as other special interests in this area. Her opinions are not universally shared among researchers in this field, and especially not among researchers who are not funded by special interests.
The outcome of a study is closely associated with the source of funding for the study. This is an effect that has been very well documented across many sectors of biomedical research.
In Exhibit A, we have patched together the most pertinent information from a large review of this issue, encompassing 1,140 studies. It was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one of the most prestigious medical journals.
In Exhibit B, we present the full version of an article looking at the same funding effect for studies of health effects from cellular telephones. It shows (Exhibit B, Table 2) that 82% of independently funded research found biological effects, while only 33% of industry-funded research did. This article was published in the Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
For several additional articles and books on this subject, please see the two lists provided in Exhibit C.
Also, special interests have directly blocked independent research. When two Swedish scientists wanted to correlate the introduction of cell phone service in Swedish counties with the health system billing records, the cell tower operator refused to cooperate, and the study could not be done.
Much research has been done which demonstrates biological effects of electromagnetic radiation at levels far below currently set limits.
A group of researchers with high credentials in the field has put together a comprehensive overview of current research. This group is independent of industry influence, and their conclusions are also different from the industry-promoted idea that there are no health effects from electromagnetic radiation. The latest edition was released about three months ago, and is available at http://www.bioinitiative.org.
An open letter protesting smart meter radiation was organized by
David O. Carpenter, M.D. and signed by forty scientists in the field. Dr. Carpenter is the founding dean of
the School of Public Health at the State University of New York at Albany. The letter can be viewed at:
The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, a society of practicing physicians, has also officially protested smart meters. Their January 19, 2012 letter to the PUC of California can be viewed on:
We do remind the Commission that many products and substances were once generally considered safe, but turned out not to be. Common examples include X-rays, asbestos, leaded gasoline, tobacco and several drugs.
Whenever phase-out of unsafe products has posed a threat to powerful special interests, well-funded resistance to the truth has persisted for decades. We are seeing a repeat of this pattern with the denial of health effects from wireless devices.
Research into acute effects on people who are electrohypersensitive is still in its infancy. Few studies have been done, most with very serious design flaws. Unfortunately, very little funding is available to do further studies.
It is standard for a new medical syndrome to be controversial for several years, with the sufferers not only having to live with the illness, but also being subjected to suspicion and sometimes ridicule. It was only a few decades ago that doctors commonly told people with asthma or an ulcer, that they just needed to learn to relax, and workers with asbestos lungs were labeled as malingerers.
The APS opt-out program should be evaluated based on the fact that some people have no other choice
The official stance of APS is that there are no health effects of any kind. As stated before, this is without merit, though few corporations ever admit that they cause any harm. History is full of such examples, including hexavalent chromium, beryllium, artificial butter flavor, asbestos, tobacco, several drugs, etc.
We remind the Commission that those needing to opt-out do not really have a choice. There are no other vendors available; APS is a monopoly supplier of electricity. Taking the house off the electrical grid is not feasible for most people, both for technical and financial reasons.
We thus ask the Commission to look at the proposed APS opt-out schedule in the light that some people have no choice, and should not be punished for a legitimate need, whether it is an actual disability or a wish to avoid possible long-term health effects or invasion of privacy.
People of limited income are unreasonably penalized
APS’ Schedule 17 proposal (4.2) specifically does not allow for any service fee discounts to people on a limited income.
This is punitive to a very vulnerable population. People who need the opt-out the most tend to also have a low income. We are aware of one elderly, disabled APS customer who has requested an opt-out and whose total monthly income is $730. Her first month’s cost would be $75+$30 = $105, which is 14.4% of her income. For all following months, she would have to pay a fee of $30, which is 4.1% of her income. In perpetuity. This is in addition to her existing utility bill.
This is punitive for people on a low income who need to opt out to stay safe from an unwanted technology imposed on them.
A high-income earner may be able to shoulder a sudden 4.1% tax on being safe (even the $4,100 per year that would mean for someone earning $100,000 a year), but people on a low income simply do not have extra money available.
APS points out their significant operational savings from their smart meter program. It is reasonable that a very small portion of these large savings are directed to help people who have a legitimate need to not participate in their new program.
People who qualify as low income should not be burdened by any fee.
The monthly fee is unreasonably high
APS’ Schedule 17 proposes a monthly fee of $30, to cover the Company’s anticipated cost of maintaining the electromechanical meters, including monthly readings.
APS has chosen the most costly opt-out program, with monthly on-site readings. The Company could have chosen lower-cost options, such as:
• quarterly readings
• self-reported readings
These have been used successfully for many years by other utilities. The opt-out ratepayers should not be penalized for the company’s inflexibility towards a small subset of their rate base.
APS also stands to make more money per kilowatt-hour from the customers with analog meters, as they may have to pay the highest overall rate.
Customers, with a TOU rate, who find their cost goes up, have the option of switching to another rate schedule. People who opt-out do not have this choice.
Besides the direct monetary gains from a high fee, APS has another incentive: a high fee discourages or forces some people to forego the opt-out. With a deflated number of opt-outs, APS can then claim their cost per person is higher than anticipated, and further increase the fee, creating a vicious cycle with fewer people having to shoulder increasing fees.
Finally, consider that people who do opt out, do so for very good reasons. Some do so because of a disability. Others wish to keep their families safe from intrusions into their privacy. And others wish to avoid the possibility of long-term health effects.
With the substantial operational efficiencies realized by APS from their smart meter program, a small part of those gains can comfortably fund the opt-out program. It can simply be considered an expense of doing business.
Charging a monthly fee of $30 is simply unreasonable.
The APS opt-out plan should provide discounts for adjacent meters
People who live in apartments, duplexes or on small city lots may need an adjacent neighbor to opt out as well. In such an arrangement, the full cost of the neighbor’s opt-out is likely carried by the same person, who may be disabled and on reduced income.
As the extra cost of reading an additional meter in the same location is very small, it is reasonable that a very substantial discount is available for such a situation.
It is unreasonable to charge a full up-front fee where the existing analog meter is left in place
Where there is already an existing analog meter on a customer’s premises, there is no need to refurbish an old meter and then dispatch a technician to install the meter on site. This makes the $75 fee an unreasonable burden which does not reflect the actual cost for this situation.
The opt-out should not be limited to wireless meters
APS’ Schedule 17 Definitions (1.1 and 1.4) only covers wireless meters. According to these definitions, meters using PLC communications could qualify as a “non-automated meter”.
As we have pointed out in several earlier filings, in Docket E-00000C-11-0328, PLC meters have similar health and privacy issues as wireless meters. PLC is not an acceptable substitute for wireless.
APS apparently does not use PLC technology at the moment, but it may do so in the future.
The Definitions 1.1 and 1.4 must be reworded to allow customers to opt out of PLC meters not just wireless models.
PLC meters use one-way or two-way communication. Some can report the electrical usage every 15 minutes. Some models transmit continuously. PLC meters are de facto Automated Meters. The Definitions must be reworded to reflect this reality.
Opt-out customers should have the same legal rights as all other APS customers
In Provision 9.1, APS requires their opt-out customers to waive various rights. Opt-out customers should have the same legal rights as all other APS customers.
APS must inform customers that switching to a new Rate Schedule requires the installation of a smart meter.
In Provision 8.4, APS locks a customer into using a smart meter for 12 months, if they voluntarily switch to one.
We have found that many customers are not aware that any time-of-use or other non-flat-rate plans require a digital meter. Some APS customers have been surprised that they ended up with a new meter after they signed up for another plan.
APS must make a good effort to inform people who opted out that their meter will be changed if they try to switch to another rate schedule.
Safer Utilities Network
P.O. Box 1523
Snowflake, AZ 85937
Books and articles documenting bias in biomedical research, when funded by entities with a financial interest in the result.
Bias in wireless health effect research
Source of Funding and Results of Studies of Health Effects of Mobile Phone Use: Systematic Review of Experimental studies, Anke Huss et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, January 2007.
Mobile telephones and cancer: Is there really no evidence of an association?, Kjell Hansson Mild et al., International Journal of Molecular Medicine, 12, 2003.
Secret Ties to Industry and Conflicting Interests in Cancer Research, Lennart Hardell et al., American Journal of Industrial Medicine (2006).
Disconnect (book), Devra Davis, Penguin/Dutton, 2012.
Lab rats with cell phones?, Christopher Ketcham, Los Angeles Times, Feb. 23, 2010.
Bias in other biomedical research
Doubt is Their Product (book), David Michaels, Oxford University Press, 2008.
Scope and Impact of Financial Conflicts of Interest in Biomedical Research, Justin Bekelman et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, January 22/29, 2008.
Why Review Articles on the Health Effects of Passive Smoking Reach Different Conclusions, Deborah Barnes and Lisa Bero, Journal of the American Medical Association, May 20, 1998.
Is Drug Research Trustworthy?, Charles Seife, Scientific American, December 2012.
Vinyl Chloride: A Case Study of Data Suppression and Misrepresentation, Jennifer Sass et al., Environmental Health Perspectives, July 2005.
An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of BPA Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment, Frederick von Saal and Claude Hughes, Environmental Health Perspectives, August 2005.
Evaluation of Conflict of Interest in Economic Analysis of New Drugs Used in Oncology, Mark Friedberg et al., Journal of the American Medical Association, October 20, 1999.
Many, many more references are cited in the above articles.