Timeline Update on MA legislature and Smart Grid

Posted: June 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 As the Massachusetts legislature approaches the end of its fiscal year, informed environmental advocates are warning residents of a Monsanto-like pro-industry bill before the Senate that will strip communities of the ability to regulate placement of wireless microwave antennas.

           > In a June 16 press release, the Massachusetts Municipal Association warned communities that the House already adopted a last-minute telecom/wireless industry amendment in economic development bill H 4181, Section 74 and 75. 

          > Senator Jennifer Flanagan, a Democrat representing Worcester and Leominster, introduced the similar Bill S 2183 now being considered by the Senate. Quincy already passed a resolution in opposition on June 17th.

           > Worcester Opts Out has been engaged in a yearlong battle in Worcester, the site of National Grid’s $48M, 15,000 smart meter and WiMax pilot program that included 242 microwave antennas and 14 proposed towers. Wireless smart utility meters installed on homes and businesses enable two-way communication between the home and the utility, punitive time of use rates, and collection of private usage data by industry. The technology introduces four additional wireless networks into the community. Despite the fact that the pilot has not yet proven that smart meters are a reasonable investment for ratepayers who will foot the estimated $7.6B bill, the MA Department of Public Utilities issued order 12-76-B on June 12 targeting wireless meters as the cornerstone to grid modernization.

            > DPU commissioner Anne Berwick is the wife of gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick, who endorses smart meters.       

            > Cost, security, privacy, and safety concerns of ratepayers raised by the Office of Attorney General Martha Coakley, also a gubernatorial candidate, have been repeatedly dismissed by the DPU and the Patrick administration.

            > Across the country, smart metering has been wrought with controversy, with over 130 organizations in direct opposition due to security, privacy, health, cost, and green-washing issues. Sheffield MA residents voted for a moratorium by a sizeable majority at their town meeting on May 5. A class action lawsuit for health damages is underway in California.  The Maine Supreme Court ruled that Maine’s Public Utilities Commission did not adequately address health concerns. The case is now under appeal.  

           > Ten out of 28 European countries have concluded that smart meter roll-out is a poor value for the money.   http://www.rtcc.org/2014/06/19/eu-efficiency-set-back-as-countries-delay-smart-meter-rollout/ New Jersey is not deploying, and Ohio’s Governor has put its renewable energy and efficiency requirements on hold.

            > Rate increases have already been approved in Illinois and Maine, with lawsuits stemming from overcharges and bills doubling and tripling after meter installation in Bakersfield, CA and other communities.  Many states have been embroiled in contentious opt out battles after installation.

            > The MA legislature failed to act on bill H2926 to proactively protect MA ratepayers from mandatory installation and opt out fees. The MA DPU has already approved docket 13-83 enabling National Grid to surcharge customers opting out of wireless gas and AMR electric meters, thereby discriminating against medically vulnerable residents. 

           > Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 prohibits communities from blocking installation of wireless infrastructure due to health or environmental concerns. In the Worcester pilot, the community challenged National Grid’s claim that TCA 1996 was applicable to the utility for an 80-foot tower installation with 5 antennas planned 70 feet from a home in a bucolic residential neighborhood, because the utility is not a telecom provider. National Grid recently received zoning authorization to install antennas on a water tower, and stated that it did not need approval for a church steeple installation 275 feet from a neighborhood elementary school because it was co-located.

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