After many citizens had spoken at the MLGW Board meeting on Thursday, more Memphians came forward with information against the proposed addition of 60,000 more smart meters.
Yvonne Burton had questions about the original pilot program that placed smart meters in 1,200 homes. She referenced the experience of City Council member Janis Fullilove who had one of the smart meters put on her home. Fullilove then asked for it to be removed after she found it raised her utility bill.
“How many others out of the 1,200 in the pilot program requested they be removed?” asked Burton. “The pilot program only included electricity, not gas and water. Shouldn’t we have tests with meters on the gas and water before we put new ones in? To save you have to do the time of use rates. Look into California’s experience,” she urged the audience. “They’ve had a lot of problems.”
Burton continued, explaining her fears of cyber security risks with smart meters. She quoted Lockheed Martin’s Kenneth Van Meter, manager of Energy and Cyber Services. He has said
The sheer volume of interactive devices on two-way networks is the biggest risk. By the end of 2015 we will have 440 million new hackable points on the grid. Nobody’s equipped to deal with that today.
Right now if I wanted to cut off the power to your house, I’d climb the pole, and there’s a manual switch. Everything’s physical. Once we have a smart grid in place I could do that from China.
Lee Cochrain took the microphone next. “The devil’s in the details,” he said. “These meters will have to be replaced every three years. We will lose our sovereignty and the TVA. It’s a money and power grab.”
He yielded the podium to Minister Yaweh. “I’m here on behalf of babies, older people and the unborn,” he said. “Evil men prevail when good men do nothing. I have no problem with the Ku Klux Klan, the Tea party or the Coffeepot people.” The audience chuckled.
“I am concerned about the magnetic and radio frequencies (smart meters emit) and their effects on the body. We don’t know how they will affect the nervous, reproductive and immune systems. There has never been a hearing on this. The people never got one. I think you (MLGW) should take your slogan down,” Yaweh said.
A second black man got up to question the amount of lead in water and was then followed by Michael Lloyd, president of Allied Energy Global. “We sell and provide energy savings,” he said of his company. “I can tell you that the technology of these smart meters is not ready. It’s not reliable. It’s easily unsecured. It’s not ready for prime time. There are other ways that are more efficient.
“I want to ask, can we afford to do this? Your mission is to provide the safest utilities at the lowest cost. The smart meters are not safe, not reliable and not secure.”
The union representative for MLGW workers, Bill Hawkins, followed Lloyd. “I’m with IUEW 1288. We have issues with the smart meters. First, there have been no pilot programs for the gas and water meters. Then, there are warranty issues on the products. People who can least afford this will be hit hardest,” Hawkins said.
“I’ve worked for MLGW 24 years and you have never been on target regarding cost,” Hawkins told the board. “We’re looking at a cost of a billion dollars. The time of use rates don’t reflect the real rates. In California 57 counties have banned smart meters and ordered the analogs be reinstated.
“I suggest you get a large venue, such as the Convention Center and hear from the people. This will be the largest project ever implemented and the people and employees deserve it (a hearing).” He reminded the board of the motto of MLGW – “to be the best utility for our customers.”
Leila Harraway from an unincorporated area of Shelby County closed out the arguments.
“Vote ‘no’ please! Why should we spend $10 million now when the analog have worked fine for 30 years,” she asked to the audience’s applause. “I don’t want to freeze in my home from 4 a.m. to 10 a.m. (because the rates will be cheaper) and I don’t want a meter that sends out information on me and my home.
“Do you want some lawsuits?” she asked in reference to the potential for fires smart meters pose. “I also don’t like that I have to opt out. Why not opt in?”
Tomorrow: The lone person in favor of smart meters speaks and the board responds.