Persistent concerns about smart meters have prompted a group of local politicians to call on the B.C. government to pull the plug on further installations of the devices in the region.
“It’s easy to be silent, but sometimes it’s important to take a stand and get a message out, and it doesn’t have to be based on perfect information,” said Tom Siddon, who led the push for an immediate moratorium from his seat as the Area D director on the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.
Siddon’s motion, which passed Thursday by a 12-5 vote, also calls on FortisBC to remove at its own cost those meters, which wirelessly relay usage data back to the company, already installed on houses in Area D.
Among his many concerns are the safety certification process for the meters used by FortisBC and debate among scientists about whether current health guidelines for devices that emit electromagnetic radiation do enough to protect the public.
Most of the RDOS board members who spoke on the issue acknowledged they don’t know enough about the science to make an informed decision, but chose to support Siddon out of an abundance of caution.
Summerland Mayor Peter Waterman said to simply walk away from the issue would be “a cop-out,” and noted the growing number of scientists who are urging caution around devices that emit electromagnetic radiation.
“To get this many scientists saying one thing, they can’t all be quacks,” said Waterman.
Opposition to the moratorium was led by Area F Director Michael Brydon, who pointed out that many of the assertions in Siddon’s motion are labelled “myths” in a fact sheet posted on Health Canada’s website.
“The only conclusion I can make if I accept this (motion) is that Health Canada is corrupt or incompetent. And if we’re going to go there, we need to go there. Otherwise, we should stay out of it,” said Brydon.
Four other votes in opposition were registered by Penticton Mayor Andrew Jakubeit and Coun. Helena Konanz, Osoyoos Coun. CJ Rhodes and Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer.
FortisBC spokesman David Wylie said in a statement the company has previously presented its smart meter plan to the RDOS and received approval from the B.C. Utilities Commission, which “concluded that advanced meters pose no health concern,” and that the project “is in the public interest.”
“While the RDOS is not the first B.C. (local government) to request a moratorium on wireless electricity meters, FortisBC is continuing with advanced meter installations since the project has met all of the regulatory and legal requirements,” he continued.
Wylie confirmed Siddon’s claim that FortisBC’s smart meters are not certified by the Canadian Standards Association, but noted that group’s stamp of approval isn’t required since the devices are not considered a consumer product.
Rather, the meters are owned and operated by FortisBC, certified by industry groups and approved for use by Measurement Canada, he explained.
So far, the company has installed about 7,000 smart meters throughout the South Okanagan, Wylie said, adding the program is designed to lower electricity costs by reducing theft, eliminating the need for manual readings and helping customers track usage.