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Coos County Commissioners reject smart meter ordinance

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Coos County Commissioners reject smart meter ordinance
Issue Time:2019-01-30
Coos County Commissioners reject smart meter ordinance
limit meter
COOS COUNTY — Coos County Commissioners voted against a proposed smart meter ordinance Tuesday night that would protect residents from excessive utility charges from electric service providers.
In response to a growing number of concerned citizens, the board listened to about 28 public comments from residents throughout the county all in opposition of Pacific Power’s smart meter rollout.
The ordinance, 19-01-004L, prohibited electric service providers from imposing economic hardship through its reading or reporting methods on its customers who choose to keep their analog or non-radio frequency digital meters.
Community members raised their concerns regarding the meter’s health and safety risks throughout the night echoing its radio-frequency, RF, emissions and fire hazards as top indicators it’s installation should be stopped.
Community members raised their concerns regarding the meter’s health and safety risks throughout the night echoing its radio-frequency, RF, emissions and fire hazards as top indicators it’s installation should be stopped.
Pacific Power representatives were also in attendance answering questions in regards to smart meters. Among them, Corey Estlund, a field support manager, addressed much of the safety concerns regarding meters assuring citizens that the meters they use are far more advanced than the first generation meters.
He said the meters they use now are from a different vendor than the ones involved in the Portland General Electric recall in which over 70,000 smart meters were returned due to fire hazard. Estlund also pointed out the low RF levels set below the regulated limits by the Federal Communications Commission.
In a split 2-1 vote, Commissioners John Sweet and Melissa Cribbins declined to second a motion set forth by Commissioner Bob Main to approve the ordinance and move forward with its adoption.
The board discussed a similar Josephine County ordinance, which was approved in October, that also prohibited charging customers excessive rates for opting out of smart meters.
The state of Oregon is currently suing Josephine County over that ordinance citing its commissioners have no authority over deciding utility rates, which is actually regulated by the Oregon Public Utility Commission.
In that discussion, Cribbins pointed out the Association of Oregon Counties (AOC), which she currently sits on the board of, has plans to file a motion to intervene in that case.
“We have limited resources that we have to decide where to best allocate them,” Cribbins said. “If somebody else is already answering my question I can’t see a good reason why Coos County should use their limited legal assets to pay those bills which would require outside counsel.”
According to Cribbins, she declined to pass the ordinance in an effort to reduce the county’s risk in being involved in another possible lawsuit and deferred AOC to take the lead and represent the county’s interests.
The proposed ordinance also required providers to supply digital broadcasting, non-broadcasting, non-radio frequency digital and computerized analog reading and reporting methods as they sought fit.  
In December, Pacific Power began its installation of about 25,000 smart meters in Coos County. An opt-out fee was established of $36 for customers interested in keeping their analog or non-radio frequency digital meter. So far, about 18,000 smart meters have been installed.
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