Protests over PSO’s smart meter policies keep growing

Concern over PSO’s forced conversion to home smart meters is growing. A group protested the mandatory move to the controversial smart meters last week in front of PSO headquarters Downtown.

PSO has given customers an ultimatum – either let PSO install a potentially dangerous smart meter or pay an upfront penalty and a monthly overage that could cost Tulsa families $400 in the first year.

To prevent installation of a smart meter, customers have to pay $71 this fall and then at least $28 a month for the rest of the time they use the utility.

And that one-time fee jumps to $110 on January 1.

The protesters said the added fees are punishment from PSO for customers who want to keep their analog meters, which have been used safely for decades. Smart meters send out electromagnetic pulses that are harmful to people, according to a growing number of scientific studies. PSO and the staff of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission claim these transmissions are “harmless” and produce less radiation than a cell phone.

Some customers feel that the smart meters, which collect much more information than the analog meters, are an invasion of privacy. They fear that the information collected by smart meters concerning how they use electricity will be sold to private companies or used in some other way without the homeowner’s permission. Smart meters can let a utility automatically adjust in-home wireless thermostats in order to decrease demand for electricity during peak usage hours.

And there is growing concern that smart meters may contribute to electrical fires in homes but PSO also denies that is happening.

The option offered by PSO is that customers must accept a 10-year-old, AMR (one-way transmission and not turned on) meter if they don’t want to accept a smart Meter.

“Its PSO’s only option for their “opt-out,” states Janene Wooster, chair of the Smart Meter Committee of Tulsa 9.12 Project, “Accepting this meter may allow us to opt-out from receiving a smart meter but it doesn’t opt us out of the fire, safety and health issues. We want to maintain our reliable analog meters.”

About 80 percent of the electric customers in Oklahoma have smart meters. PSO claims that no customer has been “forced” to take a smart meter. The Oklahoma Corporation Commission approved the added charges for rejecting a smart meter even though the amounts are higher than many similar charges in other states. Over 1,300 PSO customers requested to opt out from the smart meters and in return were issued one of the most punitive rate and meter costs in America, said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith of Tulsa 9.12 Project.