Business & Real Estate

Judge dismisses lawsuit by man who says SMUD smart meters are health hazard

SMUD has installed smart meters, left, replacing the conventional GE model meters throughout the county.
SMUD has installed smart meters, left, replacing the conventional GE model meters throughout the county. Sacramento Bee file

A Sacramento Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit by an Elk Grove resident who has been a persistent critic of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s smart meter program.

Mark Graham sued the utility in January, seeking to recoup charges he paid for switching from a smart electric meter to an analog meter. While the lawsuit involved a fairly small amount of money – less than $500 at the time – Graham hoped to prove that SMUD’s smart meter program was not properly approved and raise awareness that utility customers have the option to replace smart meters with analog meters.

SMUD vehemently disagreed with Graham’s allegations – which included assertions of health concerns related to the presence of smart meters – in a dispute stretching back several years, at SMUD board meetings and via email.

Judge David I. Brown dismissed the lawsuit, without comment, in a ruling time stamped Tuesday. The dismissal followed an Aug. 26 court hearing before Brown.

Laura Lewis, SMUD’s chief legal officer, said in a Friday email: “The court’s ruling affirmed that the complaint was completely without merit, and it represents a victory for SMUD.”

Under its smart grid program, SMUD completed replacing 600,000 old analog meters in its territory by 2012. The project was funded with millions in federal stimulus money. Unlike the old, odometerlike metal meters, the new meters use wireless technology to transmit customers’ energy use information to the utility’s offices. That eliminates the need for monthly visits by meter readers, saving on SMUD labor costs.

SMUD also touts smart meters as the industry standard, enabling customers to keep closer watch on power usage and plan for more efficient power use.

Graham repeatedly expressed alarm about radiation related to smart meters, citing international scientists’ concerns about possible health impacts and their calls for strengthening wireless radiation exposure limits.

Graham chose to switch from a smart meter to an analog electric meter in late 2013. He said SMUD charged him $127 to make the change and subsequently charged him $14 a month for a meter reader to see the analog readout.

His lawsuit contended that SMUD management implemented a massive meter-replacement program that was not in line with a board resolution authorizing smart meters for customers who specifically requested a time-based rate. Graham claimed that many SMUD customers had no say in the change and many did not know that they can opt for an analog meter.

Lewis said the board approved the extensive smart meter program and that “the board was very specific in its authority and communicating this.” She cited multiple sources of documentation and board resolutions. As for allegations that smart meters present a public health concern, Lewis previously said: “There’s been no scientific or medical evidence” of that.

Graham said Friday that he is not sure if he will appeal, citing possible high costs associated with that process. He said he was pleased that he helped get the word out that SMUD customers can “opt out” of their smart meters in favor of analog meters.

Mark Glover: 916-321-1184, @markhglover