Vernon council delays potential action on meters

Attempts to limit the use of smart meters have been pushed off again at Vernon city hall.

Attempts to limit the use of smart meters have been pushed off again at Vernon city hall.

Coun. Bob Spiers made a motion Monday calling on B.C. Hydro to allow customers to opt out of remote monitoring devices, but the rest of council deferred the matter until May 14.

“People should not make a decision immediately after a delegation,” said Coun. Mary-Jo O’Keefe referring to the presentation council had just received from B.C. Hydro.

She also pointed out that city policies require council not to deal with matters related to a presentation until the next meeting.

Spiers made a similar motion March 26 after a presentation from a group opposed to smart meters. The issue was delayed until council could hear from B.C. Hydro.

“People should have some say over it,” said Spiers of why he favours an opt-out clause for residents who believe the devices are not safe.

On Monday, Gary Murphy, B.C. Hydro chief project officer, defended smart meters.

“We are making a much needed investment in infrastructure that is the backbone of our economy,” he said of B.C.’s power grid.

He added that a more efficient system will save energy and money and keep rates low.

“We will eliminate the need for estimated bills and there will be no more meter reading errors.”

The Crown corporation is considering allowing customers to opt out of smart meters but officials state that a dual system would be costly.

“The benefits would be eroded to all customers,” said Cindy Verschoor, manager of communications and public affairs.

Council also heard from Greg Baytalan, an environmental health officer with the Interior Health Authority.

“If smart meters, which are well below Health Canada safety six (requirements), then we should have a concern with everything else including driving,” he said.

Baytalan says the radiation exposure from smart meters is far below that generated by cellular phones, microwave  ovens and baby monitors.

“Smart meters are intermittent (with the signal). If you add up the whole day, it’s one minute,” he said.

While he wants customers to have the right to refuse smart meters, Spiers doesn’t believe there is a health concern.

“It’s just a small amount,” he said of radiation.

Coun. Juliette Cunningham says B.C. Hydro’s approach has created a level of public mistrust.

“I have citizens coming with their concerns and they feel they have no voice,” she said.