Print 112 comment(s) - last by skildner.. on Jan 30 at 1:39 PM

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 ( 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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By talikarni on 1/24/2013 3:48:16 PM , Rating: -1
Regardless of their opposition or approval of it, their house and land is their private property and neither the city, power company nor the police have reasonable need to access the property without the owners permission. The police need reasonable suspicion that a crime is being committed in order to step onto their property... Federal and state law does state that people are entitled to use whatever equipment they want to on their own property, so if they want to remove the smart meter and go back to the old one then they have every right to, neither the city, county, state or power company can force them to use the new one.

RE: regardless....
By JediJeb on 1/24/2013 4:38:29 PM , Rating: 2
While I agree that people have the right to do control their own property, the electric meter would be more in line with a DirecTV box or Cable Box in that if you are not using the one sanctioned by the company supplying the product they can cut off your service. No one can force you to use the meter but they can refuse to hook up power to your home.

As for the rest the police should never have been called, the power company should have simply cut off the power at the pole(which is most times on city property beside the street in larger cities). Unless there is a law in IL that states that all homes must have electricity(which would not surprise me in IL).

RE: regardless....
By drycrust3 on 1/24/2013 4:55:00 PM , Rating: 2
I tend to agree with you, I think this situation was avoidable.
Utilities, like phone and power, do have a right to decide how they bill people. Take your phone company, it simply isn't logical to expect them to use the "pre-computer" electro-mechanical billing system on a digital switching system.
The same applies to a power company, if they wish to install meters that allow them to determine your bill remotely, then as long as I don't have to pay for it directly myself, then I don't have a problem.
Sure, I will pay indirectly, but then there are other costs with the old meters that are avoided, so I will also save some money as well.
At the end of the day, if companies within a competative environment are doing this, then it's because they believe they can get a competative advantage by doing so, if they believed the situation was the other way around (i.e. the old meters gave them a competative advantage) then they would be slow to install them.

RE: regardless....
By rs2 on 1/24/2013 7:50:18 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, it's their property. No, they do not have a "right" to use any particular electricity meter they choose, or to have electricity supplied to their property in the first place. At least not in the sense that the power company is obligated to supply them with power if they don't want to abide by its terms of service. Moreover, those two women are idiots if they believe that the smart meters cause health issues.

That said, there was no reason to arrest them, I agree. A simpler solution would be to say "you don't want the new meter? Fine, enjoy not having electricity because we won't supply you with any until you let us install the new meter". That would have solved the problem more quickly, and without the overhead/expense of having to involve the police and the legal system in the matter.

Really though, landowner or no, you don't get to dictate the terms on which the electric company will supply you with power. If they want to require the new meters and you want to have electricity, then you have to let them install the new meter. Otherwise you have every right to disconnect your service, buy a generator (or a heaping pile of solar panels and some batteries for overnight storage), and supply your own power. Or start your own electric company and operate under whatever metering policies you prefer. But don't try to tell someone else how they have to run *their* electric company.

RE: regardless....
By drycrust3 on 1/25/2013 2:50:20 AM , Rating: 3
"you don't want the new meter? Fine, enjoy not having electricity because we won't supply you with any until you let us install the new meter"

There is another option for the power company, which is to charge the customer for a person to come around and read the meter on a regular basis. To me, if a customer would prefer to have an old meter and pay for the meter person to come and read the meter, then so be it.

RE: regardless....
By nocturne on 1/24/2013 8:52:14 PM , Rating: 5
Nothing you said is at all true.. Police have every right to be on your property, as long as they don't have to open a gate or door -- that's where reasonable suspicion comes in.

Also, utility companies are granted blanket easements to come on to your property in order to manage/maintain the service to you -- and if you have power, you certainly already signed a document stating such. Power is a commodity, not a right. If you don't allow them to have access to their equipment, they have every right to notify the police and have them escort the technician onto the property. I imagine what happened next is what caused those women to get arrested.

It may have been an overreaction, but as crazy as these women are against smart meters for no legitimate reason outside of initial cost -- I imagine they may have gotten a bit 'violent'.

RE: regardless....
By talikarni on 1/25/2013 4:01:05 PM , Rating: 1
You must not live in the US, everything I said was true in all 50 states. you are looking at this from an emotional opinionated perspective, I am looking at it from the realistic legal perspective.

Police ONLY have the right to be on private property WITH reasonable suspicion or property owners permission so long as a crime has not been committed. Otherwise just walking onto someones property is illegal. Typically if a police officer was on a property, there is reasonable suspicion but even then they still have their limitations. In this case it was the installers that were illegally on the property since they were obviously denied access and the cops arrested the wrong people. It doesn't matter their beliefs or if those of us technical people see them as a bit loony, laws are laws, and the installers should have been the ones arrested.

Utility company easements only cover reading, maintenance or repair of equipment on private property. In this case it was not reading, maintenance or repair so they had no right to be there without the property owners permission, and therefore the people installing it should have been the ones arrested, not the owner. Power companies need the property owners permission to access the equipment, if at any time they are denied access then they have no right being there. That is when they require written/typed paperwork that they submit to the owner requesting access to the property with the exact reason why, and what is to be done while on the property. If the owner still denies access then legally there is nothing the power company can do since the power meter and such are still in working order and there is no law that requires people to give up their rights just so the power companies can trespass whenever they want.

The problem is not what they believe or the resulting events, it is that their rights as private property owners was violated when they denied access to their property by the installers, yet they were allowed to force their way into the property and even wrongly got the people arrested. Denying access to the property is their every right as American citizens and property owners. The power company or contracted installers forcing themselves onto peoples property without their permission is a clear violation of so many statutes and laws in every state including IL.

This is when we really need lawsuits against these overbearing power companies so they know the boundaries and laws.

RE: regardless....
By cyberguyz on 1/25/2013 7:57:30 AM , Rating: 2
Property ownership is an illusion.

You are missing a couple very important points:

1. Bylaws of the city demand that the house be connected to a power grid (there may be a few cities that do not, but most do). You can put up all the generators and solar panels you want, but you have to be connected to the power grid. And that connection has a meter even if it is to sell back your surplus power to the grid. You pay for that connection but the hardware used to connect to the grid is owned by the utility company. The utility company has the legal right to come onto your property and maintain (i.e. update) that equipment.

2. It is the government that mandates to the power how you are metered. It is the power utility that is tasked with executing that mandate. As the meter is the property of the power utility, they dictate the hardware that is used, not you. Likewise as stated in (1) due to the bylaws you have no choice but to allow the power utility entry on your property maintain their equipment. If you do not, the power utility can without prejudice cut off your power altogether leaving you eating cold diners by candlelight.

We all have the illusion that we own our real estate. The fact of the matter is that ownership is an illusion. If the government wants your property, it is a simple matter of re-zoning your lot to be commercial and you are stuck with having to sell and leave within a given time frame. Sure you can appeal and fight it, but at the end it is not your decision whether the re-zoning happens and you are left out on the street.

Likewise you stop paying your property taxes and guess what happens to your property. (Hint, you won't get to keep it or even the money from its sale).

RE: regardless....
By JediJeb on 1/25/2013 6:47:58 PM , Rating: 2
Where I live, if they rezone your property they can not force you to move, but if you ever sell then it has to be used for the new zoned purpose. I know several farms that are now within the city limits and surrounded by malls and housing developments and those farms have the right to operate as long as the same owner or their family operates it. Now if the government wanted to pull Eminent Domain to serve their purposes then you would get what they pay you and you would have to leave, but simple rezoning does not always force you to move.

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