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Judge rules against moratorium on SmartMeters

August 18, 2010 7:34:40 PM PDT
The people trying to stop the installation of PG&E's SmartMeters are facing a setback after a judge refused to grant a moratorium on the controversial meters. However, not everything went PG&E's way.

The judge declined to immediately rule on a moratorium, but says he's likely to make a ruling within two weeks.

The city and county of San Francisco petitioned the state Public Utilities Commission to freeze installation of SmartMeters back in June. Since then, the city claims another 425,000 SmartMeters have been installed. On Wednesday, it asked Administrative Law Judge Tim Sullivan to immediately rule on a moratorium.

"We think there's enough evidence in the record," said attorney William Sanders. "We don't think PG&E has disputed that evidence sufficiently."

PG&E says to date, it's installed 6.5 million SmartMeters across the state. The utility confirms that at least 43,000 of those meters have had problems. The state has received nearly 2,400 complaints about faulty meters which some customers believe has led to inaccurate billings.

However, PG&E says to stop installing them now, would be costly and could lead to layoffs.

"I don't have specific numbers on those costs and quite frankly, I think it would be difficult and impossible to quantify it definitively," said PG&E attorney Chonda Nwamu.

The Division of Rate Payer Advocates challenged that statement saying PG&E has supplied it with confidential information about the costs associated with a moratorium. It asked that the information be made available to everyone.

Judge Tim Sullivan agreed.

"I'm inclined to order PG&E to provide cost data, under seal if you wish, with as much public as you can, by next Wednesday," he said.

The Coalition of California Utility Employees went on record opposing the judge's order, however, Judge Sullivan declined to change his mind. He also refused to make a ruling on any moratorium until shortly after that happens.

"I think that the commission should wait to see the results of the independent investigation and at that time, determine what action, if any, is necessary," Nwamu said.

The structure group was hired to examine the meters. It is expected to release its finding in two to three weeks.

"The City's position is there's no need for hearings and there's no need for the commission to wait for the structure report, to impose a moratorium right now," Sanders said.

The city and county of Santa Cruz, and the towns of Fairfax, Capitola, Monte Sereno and Scotts Valley joined San Francisco in supporting the moratorium.


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