Conflict-of-Interest Smart Meter Politicking in Pennsylvania

Image Credit: StopSmartMeters.org

Catherine J Frompovich
Activist Post

Otto von Bismarck, the conservative Prussian statesman, who dominated German and European affairs from the 1860s until 1890 [1], supposedly is attributed with saying, “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” How true, especially in the case of the shenanigans that apparently have gone on in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania regarding House Bill 2200 that became Act 129 in 2008.

House Bill 2200 had amendments, and the Freeman Amendment in particular, is discussed in the House Journal. Were Smart Meters (SMs) really mandated or actually supposed to be voluntary, since the history of that bill, according to the House and Senate Journals, seems to indicate something totally different than what is being forced upon electric power company customers like PECO, an Exelon company.

Here’s a brief, but clear account, of the history of PA House Bill 2200 as it worked its way into becoming Act 129 of 2008.

February 11, 2008 House Journal pp. 386-403
PN 3218, p. 388
PA State Rep. Mr. Freeman addresses the Speaker:

Mr. Speaker, this amendment would require that all public utilities, electric utilities, install smart meters for residential and business customers across the Commonwealth. [….] by allowing the customer to be able to opt in – and it is optional – in to a purchasing process where they could purchase their electricity at off-peak hours, thereby saving on cost.

PN 3218, p.390
PA State Rep. Mr. Hutchinson addresses the Speaker:

Mr. Speaker, [….] The consumers of Pennsylvania are about to experience an increase in the electricity costs over the next couple of years because rate caps will be phasing out in various areas over the next 2 or 3 years, and with that, consumers are going to see their electric rated increased. [….], they will be mandated to pay for these new meters to be installed in their home whether they save on their electric costs or not.



It only makes sense to say smart meters should go to consumers who can save money by installing them. Those who can save by having a smart meter, it would make sense for them to have smart meters in their home. Mandating it across the board mandates that everybody pays whether they save or not, and that just does not make sense. 

I am very concerned that we continue to ignore the consumers by making more mandates and increasing their costs, whether it is through mandating meters, through trying to have some kind of a surcharge, all these things at a time when their electric costs are going up anyways. 

So although on a case-by-case basis, smart meters might be a good thing to do, making a 100-percent mandate does not make sense. So I am opposing this amendment.

PA State Rep. Mr. Godshall states:

In this case are we not taking the choice away from the consumer by saying you have to put this in service in your district rather than you may or you have a choice? Are we not saying that you must do it? We are taking that choice away from the consumer, I believe, and I would have no problem with this if we do it on a choice basis, as you used the word “choice” before. We are taking that choice away.

PN3218, p.391
PA State Rep. Mr. Freeman

Well, I would only point out, Mr. Speaker, that we are requiring the utility company to install the meter, not the customer, and it is the utility company.

PA State Rep. Mr. Godshall

[….] What I am not in full agreement on in any way is that everyone is mandated to, whether they intend to use it or not, whether they know how to use it or not, everyone is mandated, under this legislation, to go ahead with the smart meter technology. 

[….], but then if there was a question at the bottom that says you are going to be paying $300 for the installation through your utility bill for this meter and the software that goes with it, I am not sure what the answer would be.

PN3218, p.393
The Speaker says, The Chair recognizes the minority leader, Representative Smith, who says.

If we really want to encourage people to use it, I think we ought to allow them to engage it themselves as opposed to forcing them to pay for something they may not use, and that is really the difference, Mr. Speaker, in what I think is right or wrong with the amendment. While I certainly appreciate the direction it is trying to go, I think the fact that it forces the cost of the meters onto every consumer of electricity in Pennsylvania, I think that is the wrong direction to go and would ask for a vote against the amendment.

PA State Rep. Mr. Saylor says,

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear to everybody, this is a mandate. This is not voluntary; it is a mandate required to use smart meters in Pennsylvania. [….], the choice is up to the consumer to use that technology and whether they want that smart meter installed on their house. The key is, should we in the General Assembly mandate something on consumers that is going to cost them more dollars in their electric bill?

This issue in particular should be a choice by consumers, not a mandate by the General Assembly onto an additional cost to electric bills in Pennsylvania. So remember, voting for this amendment, while I think it has great goals and where the gentleman wants to get to is very admirable and where we need to get to at some point in time, it still needs to be a consumer choice, not a General Assembly mandate onto consumers that is going to cost them more in their electric bills. 

PN3218, p.395
PA State Rep. Mr. Benninghoff

I guess my reservation, obviously, is do we want a statewide mandate? Do we want the government telling you that you have to have a meter put in your property? [….] I think it is important that we are smart about our energy use, but I also think we have to think about what government’s role is in mandating such a thing.

PN3218, p.397
PA State Rep. Mr. Gabig

The problem I am having with the amendment is [….] But if they start saying, well, for the smart legislator you are going to pay five times more money and for the dumb legislator you are going to pay five times less money, for the smart card you are going to pay five times more money and for the dumb card you are going to pay five times less money, for the smart meter you are going to pay we do not know how much more money because we will not tell you, but it is not going to be the utilities that pay for it because we took care of them in our amendment; they are taken care of in this Freeman amendment. The big utility companies and corporations, they are all right with it; they support this, but the customer, well, you are going to pay the freight for this mandate, this State mandate.

February 12, 2008 House Journal, pp. 430-432
PN3233 Pg. 431
PA State Rep. Mr. Hutchinson

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to passage of HB2200, and let me tell you why. I believe in its original unamended form, before it came to the House floor, there were a lot of redeeming qualities in the bill. It did promote conversation, and that is a laudable goal for Pennsylvania, to try to conserve energy.

However, by the amendments passed yesterday, which mandated universal smart meters across Pennsylvania, that is a fatal flaw that makes this bill a bad idea for Pennsylvania. It is bad for the consumers of Pennsylvania who will have to pay for those smart meters, whether they save on their electric bills or not. It makes no sense whatsoever to force people to pay for those smart meters and then, in addition, still pay higher and higher utility bills. It was said yesterday that if only 1 percent of the people used smart meters, we would have huge savings in energy use in Pennsylvania, and, Mr. Speaker, I agree with that statement. But my idea is, let us get the smart meters only to those 1 percent of the people and get this same savings in energy use. That is the smart way to move forward to promote energy conservation, to use technology like smart meters in a targeted and commonsense way instead of a mandated, across-the-board consumer tax – that is what it is, a couple hundred dollars per person – that will have to be paid to pay for these smart meters. So after adding that fatal flaw to this bill, I think it is incumbent upon everyone in this chamber to vote against HB2200, and I ask them to join me in that vote. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

HB2200 made its way through the PA House and went to the Senate for their consideration and more amending.

PN4429
(2) Electric distribution companies shall furnish smart

28  meter technology as follows:
29  (I) Upon request to a customer that agrees to pay
30  the cost of the smart meter.
1    (II) In the construction of a new residence or new
2    building to be used by a commercial customer.
3    (III) In accordance with a schedule of replacement
4    of full depreciation of existing meters.

PN4526
(2) Electric distribution companies shall furnish smart

23  meter technology as follows:
24  (I) Upon request from a customer that agrees to pay
25  the cost of the smart meter at the time of the request.
26  (II) In new building construction.
27  (III) In accordance with a depreciation schedule not
28  to exceed 15 years.

The bill meets with final approval in the Senate!

October 8, 2008 Senate Journal, pp. 2626-2631
PA State Senator Mr. Tomlinson (p.2626)

Mr. President, I rise to ask for support for House Bill No. 2200 as amended by the Senate. [….] It also contains language in there that we will have smart meters. It is not mandated, but it allows for the deployment of smart meters through a depreciation process, through new home construction process, and through the depreciation of 15 years, and for anyone who wants to purchase a smart meter which they feel will help them manage their electric load better.

Question: So, why are PECO and other utility companies sending out shut off notices to customers who don’t want them and don’t have to have them in accordance with the above statement by State Senator Tomlinson? Apparently, utility companies are not abiding by the law, or its proper interpretation as written, as these discussions of the bill and amendments document.

PA State Senator Mr. Boscola

So-called smart meters by themselves are not magically – anyone’s monthly electric bill is not going to go down just because you are getting a smart meter. That will not happen. [….] We also made sure that smart meters would not be mandated for every single ratepayer. Not only is that a smarter approach to smart meter deployment, but it will also save electric customers hundreds of millions of dollars paying for something that will not provide a real benefit in their own households.

Question: If Pennsylvania State Senators feel they passed a bill that would not mandate smart meters for every single ratepayer, how come PECO and other utility companies can break the law and shut off electric power to fully-paid customers?

PA State Senator Mr. Fumo

In addition, we did not mandate smart meters, but we made them optional. We did say in new construction, where they really are practical, they will be put in.

The Senate approved-bill goes back to the Pennsylvania House. The discussion does not mention anything about whether the meters are mandated or not.

HB2200 is signed into law as Act 129 by Governor Edward G. Rendell.

An Implementation Order is then devised by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission.

Smart Meter Procurement and Installation Implementation Order was adopted at the June 18, 2009 Public Meeting. Entered June 24, 2009. Docket No. M-2009-209655.

Question: What gives the PA PUC the totalitarian right to interpret the law using this language?

The Commission believes that it was the intent of the General Assembly to require all covered EDCs to deploy smart meters system-wide when it included a requirement for smart meter deployment “in accordance with a depreciation schedule not to exceed 15 years.”

This Writer’s Comments:

No other intent can be construed from the language of the Pennsylvania Senators and Representatives as printed in both the House and Senate Journals of record.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission acted under false pretenses thereby imposing burdens of all sorts, including financial, that the state legislators did not want and genuinely expressed concerns about.

PA Act 129 of 2008 is, therefore, an illegal act for many reasons, including violating an individual’s constitutional rights, but more importantly because the PA PUC interpreted law by its “belief,” which is contrary to the legal method of law-crafting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Consequently, Act 129 of 2008 must be rescinded and stricken from Pennsylvania State Law as it violates Pennsylvania citizens’ legal rights to redress, due process, and to function as an informed consumer with consumer protection rights that must be exercised by a state agency, the PA PUC, and a corporate business, PECO.

Furthermore, the PA PUC by making its interpretation on “belief” with regard to mandatory smart meter installation, created possible conflicts of interest for utility companies including mandating services to consumers be on a “take it or leave it” basis without giving customers realistic opportunities for choice, as PA legislators voiced and amended the bill to state, or to negotiate terms that would benefit their specific needs, especially for those who have medical issues and legitimate fire/explosion safety concerns since so many smart meters cause house fires.

The PUC’s interpretation consequently interferes with customers being able to obtain the service they want, i.e., RF-free analog meters. Therefore, PECO will shut off their electric power service, even if all their bills are paid in full. That’s not what the state legislature wanted!
In law there’s what’s known as an “Adhesion Contract.” The obvious draconian ‘enforcement’ actions taken by the PA PUC and PECO seem to be implementing Adhesion principles like a legal sledge hammer.

Since, the PA PUC’s belief and interpretation of what Act 129 actually says and state legislators intended, wrote and said on record is printed in the House and Senate Journals—and contrary to PECO’s and the PA PUC’s actions—it should be incumbent upon the Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State’s Attorney General to investigate immediately if possible collusion occurred between the utility companies and the PA PUC in order that the smart meter roll out could be enforced mandatorily so as to allow PECO to procure the federal funding if PECO met a certain criteria for installing smart meters, regardless of consumers’ wishes, concerns, and complaints.

Someone in Harrisburg has to explain why this ought not to be investigated as probable cause for collusion regarding smart meter mandatory roll outs in Pennsylvania:

[PECO] is supported by a $200 million federal smart-grid grant. Under terms of the stimulus Grant, PECO promised to install 600,000 smart meters by April, 2014.” [Source: -Philly.com, “After tests, Peco to resume smart-meter installations”, 10 October 2012]

Furthermore, to reiterate what Pennsylvania state legislators said:

Representative Saylor: “..it still needs to be a consumer choice, not a General Assembly mandate onto consumers that is going to cost them more in their electric bills.”

Representative Benninghoff: “I think it is important that we are smart about our energy use, but I also think we have to think about what government’s role is in mandating such a thing.”

Representative Gabig: “…but it is not going to be the utilities that pay for it because we took care of them in our amendment; they are taken care of in this Freeman amendment. The big utility companies and corporations, they are all right with it; they support this, but the customer, well, you are going to pay the freight for this mandate, this State mandate.”

Senator Tomlinson: “It also contains language in there that we will have smart meters. It is not mandated, but allows for the deployment of smart meters through a depreciation process, through new home construction process, and through the depreciation of 15 years, and for anyone who wants to purchase a smart meter which they feel will help them manage their electric load better.”

Senator Boscola: “We also made sure that smart meters would not be mandated for every single ratepayer.”

Senator Fumo: “In addition, we did not mandate smart meters, but we made them optional.”

The Pennsylvania State Legislature immediately must resolve this totally illegal, un-American, totalitarian, tyrannical approach to consumerism as erroneously interpreted in PA Act 129 of 2008, plus the unlawful subjugation of consumers’ rights by PECO and the PA PUC in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

What the PA PUC ‘believes’ and what are the facts surrounding the amendments, etc. to the passage of HB2200 actually are, are at total variance. Pennsylvanians are suffering dramatically in many aspects of their daily lives because of the over-reach by the PA PUC and PECO, an Exelon company.

Who in Harrisburg will correct this over-reach and abuse by a state agency by introducing legislation to prevent such consumer abuse from ever happening again?

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otto_von_Bismarck

Catherine J Frompovich (website) is a retired natural nutritionist who earned advanced degrees in Nutrition and Holistic Health Sciences, Certification in Orthomolecular Theory and Practice plus Paralegal Studies. Her work has been published in national and airline magazines since the early 1980s. Catherine authored numerous books on health issues along with co-authoring papers and monographs with physicians, nurses, and holistic healthcare professionals. She has been a consumer healthcare researcher 35 years and counting.

Catherine’s latest book, published October 4, 2013, isVaccination Voodoo, What YOU Don’t Know About Vaccines, available on Amazon.com.

Her 2012 book A Cancer Answer, Holistic BREAST Cancer Management, A Guide to Effective & Non-Toxic Treatments, is available on Amazon.com and as a Kindle eBook.

Two of Catherine’s more recent books on Amazon.com are Our Chemical Lives And The Hijacking Of Our DNA, A Probe Into What’s Probably Making Us Sick (2009) and Lord, How Can I Make It Through Grieving My Loss, An Inspirational Guide Through the Grieving Process (2008)

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