Protests in Medford against smart meters, opt-out fees

MEDFORD, Ore.– **UPDATE** Protests against Pacific Power’s implementation of smart meters took place on Friday and Saturday with a small group standing outside of the company’s headquarters in Medford.

This smart meter upgrade is part of a statewide initiative by Pacific Power to allow customers the ability to have “timely information they need to make decisions about electric usage and enable smarter, more efficient management of the power grid.”

Titled as “No Smart Meter,” the group’s website states they’re fighting for the right to choose and protecting people’s health, privacy, and safety.

The group has gathered to call out what they claim is the illegality of the opt-out and meter reader fees which Pacific Power has put in place in line with standards set by the Oregon Public Utilities Commission.

According to spokesperson and advocate Randal Barrett, the group hopes to have the Oregon Department of Justice to open an investigation into the OPUC for fraud and racketeering.

“They have broken their own statues that required by the Oregon statutes to follow and they violated constitutional law and federal law but the racketeering is the big one,” he said. “They’ve colluded to hide expenses so they can target people who refuse to put these things on their home.”

In a statement released by the Oregon PUC, it approved new options on Friday to reduce the financial impact on consumers who choose to opt-out on smart meters.

In discussions with Oregon’s consumer advocate, the Citizen’s Utility Board, adjustments were made to Pacific Power’s opt-out proposal decreasing the number of meter reads from four to three annually. The monthly reading charge would be brought down to $9.

“We’re working to make the opt-out choice more available to those who have concerns about smart meter technology, while not shifting costs to other customers,” said. Letha Tawney, PUC Commissioner.

The PUC staff also recommended the company use a two-tier kilowatt hour price that would make sure customers using 1,000-kilowatt-hours or less per month not be charged a higher average price.

Pacific Power released a statement about the decision:

We’ve heard from our customers that the fee to opt out of a smart meter is burdensome and we have continued to look for new options. On Friday, we received approval of our proposal to the Public Utility Commission of Oregon to create a new program that will reduce opt-out fees for customers from $36 a month to $9 a month by manually reading meters only three times per year. This has been a collaborative process with the PUC and the Citizens’ Utility Board, and we are pleased to offer this new option to customers. We’ll be issuing additional information next week for those who would like to sign up.

A final version of this plan will be brought forth by Pacific Power next week.

*A previous version ran that No Smart Meter had asked the Oregon DOJ to file a lawsuit against the PUC. They have instead asked the DOJ to open an investigation. 

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