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City "exercise its right" to remove those looking to stand in the way of "progress"

In an incident that's sure to draw national attention, two women were dragged from their own backyards and arrested by police in Naperville, Illinois (a town located approximately 30 minutes west of Chicago) after they tried to block installation of the city's new smart meters.

President Obama has been pushing for a "smart grid" for some time, with more high-tech meters that can access more detailed information on power usage.  Proponents argue the high-tech meters cut down on waste and mistakes.  Critics cite a variety of concerns ranging from national security to health.

The two arrested women -- Jennifer Stahl and Malia "Kim" Bendis -- were leaders of an anti-smart meter group dubbed "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness".  The group's website links to a critical article on the project which points out its $23.6M USD cost, only $11M USD of which came from a federal grant.

Even Mark Curran the Naperville director of electrical utilities admits that the meter rollout has taken "longer than we anticipated", after being fraught with technical delays.

smart meter arrests
Arrest photos of Jennifer Stahl (left) and Malia Bendis (right) [Image Source: Naperville PD]

Aside from finances, though, there appears to be a relatively strong luddite component of the group's campaign to block the meters.  The group links to a number of speculative websites that compile information on the supposed "health risks" of smart meters.  The commentary on one site (electricalpollution.com) echoes the medically unfounded claims that similar campaigns have leveled against cell phone towers or Wi-Fi networks.  Comments the site:

This is of great concern because the exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation from these meters is involuntary and continuous. The transmitting meters may not even comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "safety" standards ... However, those standards were initially designed to protect an average male from tissue heating (cooking) during a brief exposure. These standards were not designed to protect a diverse population from the non-thermal effects of continuous exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation. Therefore, these "safety" standards were not designed to protect the public from health problems under the circumstances which the meters are being used.

To date, there has been no comprehensive peer-reviewed work supporting the notion that Wi-Fi or cell phone signals cause cancer or other health effects, but that hasn't stopped critics from suggesting that undiscovered risks may indeed exist.

Smart Meter protesters
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Board of Directors (L-R): Jennifer Stahl (Secretary), Kim Bendis (President), and Board Members Amanda Rykov, Lisa Rooney, Tom Glass
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness]

Despite the shaky science, one must wonder whether the city's strong-arm tactics are justified for citizens who don't want the meters.  Ms. Stahl's arrest came at 4:30 when police invaded her backyard with the installation crew after cutting the bicycle lock she used on her fence gate.  When police found Ms. Stahl standing in front of her old-fashioned "dumb" meter refusing to move, they arrested her and charged her with interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.

Ms. Bendis's arrest proceeded similarly.  She was charged with attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer.

A defiant Ms. Stahl told reporters, "It was forced on my house today.  It was really a violation. I violated something, but I’ve been violated too so I guess we’re now in a society of violating one another.  I have not done the work of attempting to educate the community and advocating for the right of anybody in Naperville to refuse the smart meter just to stand off to the side."

Ms. Bendis declined to comment to reporters, citing advice from her lawyer.

Both women were released within hours.  City Manager Doug Krieger defends the arrests, commenting, "The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees’ safety.  The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right."

Smart Meter
The Elster Rex2 smart meter (left) is being installed in homes, supported by wireless stations attached to poles and other infrastructure (right).
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness/Elster]

While the cost is one reasonable criticism against smart meter projects, another more ground criticism is security.  Prominent sources, including defense contractor Lockheed Martin Comp. (LMT), have suggested that Chinese or other sophisticated rivals of the U.S. could "hack into" smart meter networks and use attacks to cripple or otherwise interfere with the U.S. power grid.  If this premise holds true it would represent a tremendous new national security risk.

Another interesting criticism comes from security researchers [PDF], who report that smart meter data, if carefully analyzed, could reveal intimate details of one's life.  For example, a house hooked up to smart water and electric meters could allow a third party to track when people shower, whether a home alarm is on, and how often people use their televisions.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald [Naperville]



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RE: Waste of money
By Director12 on 1/24/2013 3:38:08 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, my wife works for a power company and can confirm that this is the tactic. The other thing that pundits don't tell you is that these things can be used to control 'smart' appliances but turning them on/off according to the state of the grid (or the whims of the state?).

As for the article, the state destroyed private property, trespassed on private land and arrested the woman for no 'crime' other than standing up against local tyranny. She should sue the lot of them.


RE: Waste of money
By Solandri on 1/24/2013 4:50:52 PM , Rating: 5
Legally, you don't own the meter. Nor do you have rights to restrict access to the easement through (or over) which power lines run through your land to get to the meter. I've run into this twice. First when the company (which operated 1000 acres as a hiking park) tried to prevent the city from stringing up power lines over its property. And second when a neighboring property owner tried to prevent another company I worked at from constructing a new building by blocking new electrical lines (which ran through his property). It's a utility, and utilities have the right to run lines and access them through your property along city-approved easements. You have no right to block them. So no, property rights were not violated and there was no trespassing.

It was a crappy way of handling it and is sure to generate lots of negative publicity. But it was legal. Without getting into the argument about whether the new meters are a good or bad thing, what they should've done is simply cut off power (with sufficient advance notice) if you refused to let them install the new meters. Then it becomes the homeowner's choice to allow the new meter or live without electricity.


RE: Waste of money
By Director12 on 1/24/2013 5:00:02 PM , Rating: 4
So he who makes the laws is always in the right?
I won't raise the obvious on that point.

The real answer is to generate more power, with LFTR (safe nuclear) reactors getting some attention there's no excuses IMO. Yet they persist with coal and dirty nuclear?


RE: Waste of money
By Yojimbo on 1/24/2013 8:06:30 PM , Rating: 2
Well what are you raising? I mean what exactly are you saying? That it's wrong for someone else to own something that's on your property? Like someone else said, electricity isn't a right, it's a commodity. You need to have the infrastructure for the delivery of the goods. The charge laid against this smart meter is that it can be a health risk, but there's no basis for that. Do you suggest that the government should step in to require any electric company to supply its goods in any willy-nilly way its customers request? Since the foundation of the complaint against the smart meters is being rejected as bogus, as it is believed that there is no health risk, why should the electric company's operations be interfered with on behalf of the protesters? The fact that the electric company is installing them to comply with a civil statute or decree is not relevant.


RE: Waste of money
By Yojimbo on 1/24/2013 8:22:38 PM , Rating: 2
anyway, i also have a problem with people being dragged off their own property in such a case. Perhaps the electric company should have just turned the power off and left, but there might be regulations prohibiting them, etc. But it's not clear exactly what happened at the scene that resulted in their arrest.


RE: Waste of money
By George Karadimas on 1/27/2013 8:29:21 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah! The STANDARD OBFUSCATION statement "But it's not clear exactly what happened at the scene that resulted in their arrest." SO!...... Let us leave it to the AUTHORITIES to sort it out! Just like putting a Fox in charge of the hen-house and then wondering why there are chickens missing, with marked and repeated regularity!

Smart Meters is an AGENDA 21 instrument of SUBJUGATION!
Mark it on your wall for reference , for the day that you come to your moment of awakening!


RE: Waste of money
By Mint on 1/25/2013 9:17:39 AM , Rating: 1
Guess what: LFTR and other nuclear produce baseload power. If people use more power in the day than at night, you can't use LFTR it for the difference, because half of it will be wasted.

That's why you need smart meters to encourage people to use electricity at night instead of daytime. The more even the demand curve, the more efficiently we can generate electricity. It's true for natural gas, too.

With dumb meters, people using electricity during low periods are paying more than market rate to subsidize people using power during peak times.

The number of recs you and arazok got for your posts really points out the idiocy of DT's readership.


RE: Waste of money
By RufusM on 1/25/2013 11:59:10 AM , Rating: 2
The problem is: How are people going to change their behavior?

People can install a programmable thermostat that decreases some HVAC usage during the day or at night, but millions of people are at home during the same times, so how is the behavior going to change? I can't heat or cool my house more during off hours because it won't last very long. I can't shut of my fridge/freezer during the day.

I guess I *could* stay up all night and only cook and do laundry at 2:00 AM but that's not really practical.


RE: Waste of money
By djc208 on 1/28/2013 12:05:49 PM , Rating: 2
Some of it can't be shifted, you are correct. But most newer appliances like dishwashers, washing machines, and even dryers have delay features that allow you to have them run at off-peak times. Which can also be good from a noise/disturbance standpoint.

For people that use electric for their hot water that can also be modified to do more of it's heating during off-peak hours. This also dovetails onto the above as washing clothes/dishes will require hot water. I can remember just such a system at a friend's house over 20 years ago, should be easy today.

Many electric cars offer charging control to allow people to take advantage of the best charging times/rates. No reason small things like phones and tablets can't do the same. May seem tiny but over the millions of devices it becomes significant. My computers are already set to wake up and perform backups during the night, which is both convenient and off-peak.

In the future more appliances will offer programmable or smart capabilities to take advantage of these types of controls. Smart meters would allow them to automatically shift their useage around the rate structure, i.e a fridge that cools to a lower than normal set point during the night and then only comes on during the peak hours if necessary.


RE: Waste of money
By MZperX on 1/25/2013 12:52:22 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
If people use more power in the day than at night, you can't use LFTR it for the difference, because half of it will be wasted.

This is patently untrue. LFTR has excellent load following characteristics, not to mention that load following is pretty much a hands-off inherent part of the way the reactor operates. It is capable of being on long term standby and ramp up to meet peak demand. Conventional BWR and PWR reactors are notoriously bad at this. Not so with LFTR.

quote:
That's why you need smart meters to encourage people to use electricity at night instead of daytime.

And how in purple hell would most people do this? I don't know about you but my family is asleep at night. Most families are in fact. Short of charging an EV overnight, which again most people don't have, what could the public possibly do to "even out demand"? This is pie-in-the-sky nonsense. We need realistic solutions that accomodate human behavior instead of mandating/forcing behavior to mask the shortcomings of our infrastructure.


RE: Waste of money
By JediJeb on 1/25/2013 6:06:32 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly! Now if the government and utility companies can somehow figure out how to make it cooler in the day and warmer at night in the summers/winters then I could use less during peak hours.


RE: Waste of money
By Mint on 1/26/2013 10:57:03 AM , Rating: 3
That's great in theory, but why do you think coal plants avoid load following, despite having much higher fuel costs than nuclear?

1. Load following causes daily thermal cycling, which causes cracks, equipment wear, etc. For a new technology like LFTR with reliability unknowns, I guarantee you that it will NOT be used in a load-following manner for decades.

2: To produce more power during the day, you need to idle some part of your equipment at night. That's a waste of capital, particularly for something with as high up-front costs as nuclear.

quote:
And how in purple hell would most people do this? I don't know about you but my family is asleep at night. Most families are in fact. Short of charging an EV overnight, which again most people don't have, what could the public possibly do to "even out demand"?
If you don't charge people according to cost, there is ZERO chance of matching behaviour with demand.

It will take new technology, but nothing particularly difficult. The biggest one is ice-based air conditioning (freeze it at night, let it melt during the day). AC is often 50%+ of the household electricity bill for southern states, so being able to chop that in half or more is a huge economic incentive. PHEVs sales are growing and will continue to do so. Fridges/freezers can cool down a few degrees extra at night and then warm during the day.

Of course it's going to take a few decades to replace our existing equipment, but it's better to start now than never.


RE: Waste of money
By piroroadkill on 1/28/2013 4:20:34 AM , Rating: 2
Apart from in France, where they're so obsessed with nuclear, some plants run in load-following mode (inefficiently)


RE: Waste of money
By Samus on 1/26/2013 12:01:45 AM , Rating: 2
Chicago electricity comes from 0 coal burning plants. Chicago and most of Illinois also has among the lowest kw/h rates in the country.

Smart meters are 'necessary' but if they want to improve the grid, they are an obvious requirement at some point in the future.


RE: Waste of money
By nocturne on 1/24/2013 5:29:26 PM , Rating: 2
Amen.. electric isn't a right, it's a commodity -- that you pay for under a contract agreement. If you want to get in the way of the electric company managing their service to you and maintaining their equipment, if anything you are breaking the service agreement and should just get your power shut off.

Let the nutjobs sit a few days without electricity, and they'll call up begging to schedule a smart meter installation -- problem solved. No police, no charges, no drama.

I personally don't find any fault with smart meters, including the fact that they can kick down the power consumption of devices like dryers and air conditioners (a whole lot of good they do if they have to instate rolling blackouts).

I just can't help but think that the enormous cost is mostly just a boondoggle...


RE: Waste of money
By Kurz on 1/25/2013 1:42:01 PM , Rating: 2
Its not the Consumers fault for those problems.
The Government and Power Companies have failed to keep up with demand. Have silenced better power alternatives like LFTRs.

Devices and appliances have been getting better.
Consumers have been switching to more energy efficient appliances.

There is a steady population growth going on.


RE: Waste of money
By George Karadimas on 1/25/13, Rating: 0
RE: Waste of money
By protomech on 1/24/2013 4:50:32 PM , Rating: 2
When utility service was run out to the private property, the utility company presumably signed an agreement with the property owner to allow access to the utility equipment for purposes of accounting, maintenance, and upgrades.


RE: Waste of money
By 91TTZ on 1/24/2013 4:57:49 PM , Rating: 3
Sure, but the land owner can cancel that contract. If these people didn't want electricity they can cancel the contract if they want. That's what these people essentially did. They broke their side of the agreement by not allowing the company to install the new meter. Therefore they shouldn't get electricity.

But that's not the way the company and police handled it. They arrested the women as if she had no saw in the matter.

I can understand if they were trying to block access to a main power line that serviced many houses on the block, but they were just blocking the installation of meters specific to their houses.


RE: Waste of money
By Spuke on 1/24/2013 5:14:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
If these people didn't want electricity they can cancel the contract if they want. That's what these people essentially did.
If they cancelled their electric service then I could see that being so but I doubt they did. If they REALLY didn't want those meters, then they could simply go with off grid power. The power company does have a right to access their equipment.


RE: Waste of money
By 91TTZ on 1/24/2013 5:42:27 PM , Rating: 4
By them refusing the smart meter that would break the contract. Remember that the contract is customer initiated. Customers can cancel at any time.

If Comcast tells me that I need to upgrade my cable box to a new model, I can refuse. They will then cut my cable service. They won't have the police kick in my door and arrest me, though.


RE: Waste of money
By geddarkstorm on 1/24/2013 7:26:56 PM , Rating: 4
Not yet, anyways. I mean, we are talking about Comcast here ;).


RE: Waste of money
By rs2 on 1/24/2013 9:35:31 PM , Rating: 1
Wow. Glad you're not a lawyer.

Yes, customers can cancel at any time (subject to any provisions that may exist in the contract such as paying any unpaid balance; the fact that one party initiates a contract doesn't mean that they automatically get to terminate the contract at any time for any reason) provided that they give adequate notice of their intention to cancel.

However, doing something that would technically breach the contract doesn't mean that the contract automatically and immediately terminates. Whether or not the contract terminates in the event of a breach is generally at the discretion of the party who has *not* breached the contract.

For instance, if you're late on a payment you have breached the contract. The electric company may choose to immediately terminate your contract as a result, or they may decide that it makes more sense to send you a warning letter and continue providing (and billing for) services. Since you breached the contract by not paying, and since you did so without giving notice of your intention to end the contract, the electric company gets to decide whether or not they want to end the contract or allow it to continue.

The same applies to these crazy ladies and their meters. Their actions may have breached the contract, but they do not give notice or establish intent to end the contract. That leaves it up to the electric company to decide whether to cut the nutjobs off completely or require that the contract terms be enforced.


RE: Waste of money
By 91TTZ on 1/25/2013 10:43:53 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
Yes, customers can cancel at any time (subject to any provisions that may exist in the contract such as paying any unpaid balance; the fact that one party initiates a contract doesn't mean that they automatically get to terminate the contract at any time for any reason) provided that they give adequate notice of their intention to cancel.


I'm glad you're not in any position to make law.

While you can be penalized if you break a contract, the other side doesn't get a blank check as to what that penalty might be. If you agreed to have me install siding on your house and then you sign the contract and then bail because you had second thoughts you broke a contract. But I don't get a blank check as to my recourse. I can probably take you to small claims court and win some money. But I can't have you arrested while I install that siding.

That's what happened in this case. They broke a contract and the electric company can probably sue for some money, but having them arrested crossed a line. They weren't interfering with a larger-scale utility line like an underground power line that serviced their neighborhood, they were only preventing a meter from being installed on their own house.


RE: Waste of money
By blue_urban_sky on 1/25/2013 3:30:03 AM , Rating: 2
I work for BT in the UK and we have all sorts of rights which the consumer has no say about as we have a contract with the government.

When running an infrastructure that has to serve everyone fairly the rights of the individual suffer and this is correct. I would guess even if the people stopped the service the utility Co. would still have rights to access and change their meter. the only option would be to ask and pay for the infrastructure to be removed from your property.

I believe that in the USA the telco's are not considered infrastructure? so have no rights beyond being a service so are very different in power to the electric companies.


RE: Waste of money
By 91TTZ on 1/25/2013 10:35:01 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I believe that in the USA the telco's are not considered infrastructure? so have no rights beyond being a service so are very different in power to the electric companies.


It depends. If it's a major thing like a power line or fiber optic cable running under your property it's considered a utility. But if it's just your personal cable line that's different.

I couldn't tell Verizon that they can't run a fiber optic backbone under my yard because the municipality would step in and say that I can't impede the installation of a public utility. But if Verizon tried to run a cable to my house to make it more likely that I'll buy FIOS then I can tell them to stop.


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