Activists want referendum on B.C. Hydro smart meters
Should one opponent of smart meters get his way, British Columbians might be voting to get rid of them the way they did the harmonized sales tax. “Possibly, they could be doing that,” Walt McGinnis, spokesperson for StopSmartMeters.ca, told the Straight by phone from Victoria. “First, there are a lot of things that have to happen. We have to get our support registered and people have to find us.”
McGinnis said that members of StopSmartMeters.ca will hold a news conference in Victoria on Thursday (November 24) to announce plans for an initiative vote—the same process that led voters to reject the HST.
The event, he said, will show how the Recall and Initiative Act can be applied to the provincial smart-meter program, which was mandated under the Clean Energy Act in 2010. B.C. Hydro plans to install 1.8 million meters in homes and businesses by December 2012.
McGinnis said his group wants to assess its options before committing to overhauling any legislation. Ultimately, he wants a provincewide moratorium pending further study of the effects of smart meters.
Meanwhile, NDP energy critic John Horgan plans to present another petition against smart meters, called Occupy Smart Meters, in the legislature. Horgan did not respond to Straight messages by deadline.
Self-described smart-meter “survivor” Debi Alexander, from Cache Creek, told the Straight that she and her husband signed the petition going to Horgan and would “definitely” support the cause of StopSmartMeters.ca.
Alexander said she underwent chemotherapy last year after being diagnosed with breast cancer. A month ago, a smart meter was installed in the couple’s home, and immediately they began to feel sick. “It started doing that [making them feel ill] on the November long weekend,” she said. They successfully lobbied B.C. Hydro to send someone to remove the meter. According to her, they feel healthier as a result.
Critics such as McGinnis claim that there are too many “weaknesses” to the smart-meter program, not least relating to possible health impacts. “[B.C. Energy and Mines Minister] Rich Coleman is saying that 20 years’ exposure to the radiation emitted from a smart meter is the same as a 30-minute [cell]phone call,” McGinnis said. “Now, what we’ve been asking B.C. Hydro is for their research for their data to support that claim. They haven’t supplied us with it, and that’s because there isn’t any. There is no research to support that claim.”
The same claim is made on B.C. Hydro’s own website in the section explaining smart meters. B.C. Hydro claims smart meters will save taxpayers $70 million in lower rates over the next three years, and “$1.6 billion in avoided costs and increased efficiencies over the next 20 years”.
Coleman and B.C. Hydro smart-meter-program spokesperson Cindy Verschoor did not respond to calls by deadline.