Oregon Municipal Utility Board Votes for “Opt-In” Approach to Smart Meters

EWEB LogoEUGENE, OR — The Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB), founded in 1911, is Oregon’s largest customer-owned utility and provides electricity and water to more than 86,000 homes, business, schools and other customers in Eugene, Oregon.

On October 1, 2013, EWEB Commissioners voted unanimously to move forward with an advanced metering project that takes an “opt-in” approach in which customers will choose whether to have an advanced meter or keep their existing meter.

The opt-in approach is a departure from initial plans that called for EWEB to provide an “opt-out” strategy, in which meters would be installed for everyone by 2017 in a large-scale “rollout,” unless they choose to opt-out.  Opt-in is described as “all about customer choice.”

Only customers who say they want the new so-called smart meters will get them.  The decision should quiet much of the criticism of EWEB’s long-debated smart meter program.  Those who worry about the health effects of smart meter transmissions won’t have to do anything to avoid unwanted exposure.  Those who fear that smart meters will lead to a loss of privacy can keep the meters they have now.

According to an EWEB Memorandum dated September 24, 2013, a staff recommendation was made to the Commissioners to adopt what was referred to as “Alternative 2”:

“Alternative 2 focuses on development of strategic programs and benefits.  It would rely on an opt-in strategy and customer choice.  It is not the original big roll out concept with some customers opting out.  Instead, it is envisioned as a slower development that could take several years.  Management believes that the focus on Alternative 2 would allow EWEB to fully explore and develop the strategic benefits which really are ultimately the most important benefits of the AMI system. … This concept is a departure from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ utility model.  However, given the complexity of the world we face and the challenges before us, flexibility and change are necessary.”

Although the “opt-in” approach as viewed as reasonably positive, many local smart grid opponents would have preferred “Alternative 0” which would have delayed rollout of smart meters for at least ten years.  In any case, under the provisions of the option approved by Commissioners, no customers — neither those who opt in, nor those who stayed out — would face any fees for their choices, EWEB says.

A possible factor in the Eugene, Oregon, utility Commissioners voting for the maximum “customer choice” option may have been an impressive presentation given by Dr. Paul Dart describing the inadequacy of the current radiofrequency exposure guidelines used to protect the public.  This presentation was given at a special public session of the EWEB on July 23, 2013.

Dr. Dart was part of a local medical advisory group that had spent 18 months researching the current medical literature on the biological or “non-thermal” effects of microwave radio frequency transmissions, in an effort to assist the Eugene Water and Electric Board in making prudent decisions on their choices of technology as they considered installing an AMI infrastructure of wireless “smart” electric meters.

Among the materials presented to the EWEB by Dr. Dart and several other doctors were the following conclusions:

Existing scientific research offers strong evidence that the chronic exposure of the public to microwave RF transmissions produces serious acute and chronic health effects in a significant portion of the population.  These findings can be summarized in the following precepts:

Basic Precepts for Residential Exposures to RF Transmissions:

  • Excessive RF exposure can cause acute problems (headaches, insomnia, fatigue, vertigo, tinnitus, other symptoms of EHS).
  • Excessive RF exposure can also cause chronic problems (oxidative stress, cancer, male infertility).
  • Constant RF transmission is probably harmful, even at low levels, and should be avoided.
  • Frequent and repetitive intermittent transmissions are also probably harmful, and should be avoided.
  • Nocturnal exposures are more problematic than daytime exposures, because of RF’s potential to suppress nocturnal melatonin secretion and disturb sleep, and because night is the time when we rest and heal from stresses (including oxidative stress).
  • Occasional and infrequent daytime exposures are much less likely to cause an increase in chronic problems for the population at large.
  • Occasional and infrequent daytime exposures are still likely to provoke acute symptoms in a small percentage of the population.

EWEB should adopt a policy of minimizing their RF footprint in the community. 

A recognition of the [above] precepts should lead EWEB to adopting a policy of minimizing their infrastructure’s RF footprint in the community as much as possible during regular operations.  This doesn’t mean that staff would throw away their cell phones and communicate by semaphore.  But it would mean that instead of combatting or ignoring the possibility that more RF in the community could cause harm, EWEB should acknowledge the potential risks of excessive residential exposure.”

Sounds like well-founded advice for all.

Although over an hour in length, feel free to watch the entire presentation given by Dr. Dart on July 23, 2013.  A YouTube video is provided below although some of the audio quality could have been better.


For a copy of the medical advisory report submitted to the Eugene Water and Electric Board, refer to the link below:

Paul Dart MD Lead Author Report to EWEB June 2013

For a complete copy of the presentation materials (over 30 MB in size), click on the following link:

Dr. Dart Presentation Materials

Below is just one of the informative slides contained in Dr. Dart’s presentation.

Dart Free Radical Production

As a side note, however, and subsequent to the EWEB Commissioners’ vote, the EWEB public relations spokesperson Joe Harwood made a comment that tended not to share the opinion that people should be given a choice to avoid RF emissions from smart meters.  Who would you trust on this issue, … the six (6) medical doctors who prepared the medical advisory report for the EWEB … or the public relations spokesperson?

Harwood: “I’m frankly speechless.  I don’t know how to respond to people that think that radio waves are going to somehow cause a health effect.  It’s patently ridiculous.”

Additionally, as part of the July 23, 2013, special public session of the EWEB, there was a webinar type presentation by Peter Valberg, Ph.D., a physicist frequently used by utilities to testify in support of smart meter deployments.  I would suppose that despite the evidence presented by Dr. Dart, the take-away summary of the Valberg presentation is that the “Evidence on RF disease risk remains speculative.”  Below is a link for the presentation materials used by Peter Valberg, Ph.D.

Pro Smart Meter Peter Valberg Presentation

About SkyVision Solutions

Raising public awareness and finding solutions for smart grid issues related to invasions of privacy, data security, cyber threats, health and societal impacts, as well as hazards related to radiofrequency (RF) radiation emissions from all wireless devices, including smart meters.
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2 Responses to Oregon Municipal Utility Board Votes for “Opt-In” Approach to Smart Meters

  1. Warren says:

    Peter Valberg is literally a “tobacco scientist” having worked for Phillip Morris in their “light cigarettes” lawsuit. He also worked for R.J. Reynolds. His product liability defense company, Gradient, defended BPA in plastic amongst other things.

    • Peter Valberg is on record as having a relationship with an organization called the “Center for Indoor Air Research” (CIAR) which was funded by the tobacco industry to “sponsor and foster research in indoor air issues with emphasis on environmental tobacco smoke.” For example, in 2003, an article was published in the British Medical Journal that was funded at least in part by CIAR. The article concluded, “The results do not support a causal relation between environmental tobacco smoke and tobacco related mortality, although they do not rule out a small effect.” The study results were immediately denounced by the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association. Headlines included “American Cancer Society Condemns Tobacco Industry Study for Inaccurate Use of Data Study — Part of Organized Effort to Confuse Public About Secondhand Smoke,” and “American Heart Association questions validity of new second-hand smoke study — Study questioning second-hand smoke’s role in chronic diseases is based on flawed science.”

      Valberg may have done some good things during his overall career, but I basically view him as a “scientist for hire.” Unfortunately, in today’s world, it would appear that many scientists are somewhat like lawyers, they can take either side of the “case” depending on who is paying for their services.

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