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Maine Study: Smart Meter Emissions Well Within Federal Standards
02/04/2013   Reported By: Samantha Fields

A new study commissioned by Maine's Office of the Public Advocate finds that so-called smart meters, now used by Central Maine Power to monitor residential electricial usage to more than 600,000 customers, operate well within federally-established set safety limits for public exposure to radio frequency emissions. As Samantha Fields reports, that finding doesn't appease critics who say the devices pose a health threat.

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Maine Public Advocate Dick Davies says his office commissioned the study to help answer some of the questions being raised in an ongoing legal challenge of smart meter technology. One of those questions had to do with whether smart meters operate within federal safety standards for radio frequency emissions.

"It was well below the standard that the federal government has set," Davies says.

But that's little comfort to Ed Friedman of Bowdoinham, who is asking the Maine Public Utilities Commission to force the removal of more than 600,000 smart meters already installed in Maine homes. Friedman and and others say the wireless monitoring devices are causing serious health problems for certain Mainers who are senstitive to radio frequency emissions.

Friedman says the public advocate's study is meaningless, because it's clear that the federal guidelines provide inadequate protection, a case he is trying make to the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

"There are biological effects at low levels of radio frequency microwave radiation - it's not even a question," he says. "And what's precedent-setting about Maine is that the PUC actually did say that they will not be limited by the FCC guidelines."

The PUC agreed to revisit the safety issue, after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that state regulators had fallen short on obligations to assure public safety.

Central Maine Power Company spokesman John Carroll defends the safety of the smart meters, which were approved by the state in 2010. Carroll says the latest study confirms that smart meters operate well within federal guidelines. The open question in the case, he says, is now a much larger one:

"It's no longer about smart meters - it's about wireless routers, it's about cell phones, cordless phones, car door openers, garage door openers, remote-controlled toys," Carroll says. "This a now a case, very clearly, about the safety of radio frequency energy and radio frequency devices.

The legal challenge to smart meters will be taken up by the Maine PUC over the course of the spring and early summer.  And during that time, there will likely be several public hearings.

This story was reported by Keith Shortall.



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