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Maple Ridge council calls for choice on Smart Meters

Maple Ridge council voted Tuesday to send a letter to B.C. Hydro urging the provincial power utility to respect citizens right to opt out of the controversial $900 million project to replace the province’s 1.8 million power meters.  - Black Press/Files
Maple Ridge council voted Tuesday to send a letter to B.C. Hydro urging the provincial power utility to respect citizens right to opt out of the controversial $900 million project to replace the province’s 1.8 million power meters.
— image credit: Black Press/Files

Maple Ridge residents, along with all other British Columbians, should have a choice whether or not they want one of B.C. Hydro’s smart meters installed on their homes.

Maple Ridge council voted Tuesday to send a letter to B.C. Hydro urging the provincial power utility to respect citizens right to opt out of the controversial $900 million project to replace the province’s 1.8 million power meters.

The smart meters will allow B.C. Hydro to quickly and more accurately identify outages, and provide more accurate monitoring of power usage, which could result in power savings.

However, homeowners have no say in the matter, said Coun. Corisa Bell, who put forward the resolution, adding that many are concerned about perceived health risks from the wireless devices.

“There is a strong suggestion these devices are harmful,” Bell  said at Tuesday’s council meeting. “Some may argue that [cell phones and microwaves] are used  daily and emit the same frequencies in larger doses, but I want to point out the public makes choices in regards to ... those items.

An earlier motion by Bell to call on B.C. Hydro for a complete moratorium on smart meter installation until there is further research into the health effects of the wireless devices was voted down 6-1, with only Bell voting in favour.

Bell added there are potential security risks from implementing a wireless network from hackers, as well. Her claims of possible health risks from the devices were largely dismissed by the other councillors.

Coun. Cheryl Ashlie said the motion wasn’t well thought out, and that if the District takes a stand on smart meters as wireless devices, it would logically have to extend that policy to ban the wireless devices it requires its own staff to use.

“We issue cell phones, we have fire and police who use [wireless radios], so we would have to extend the moratorium if we believe there are [health concerns],” Ashlie said. “Once you open that door you have to be prepared to argue it wholly, and I don’t think we want to go down that road.”

According to B.C. Hydro, the radio frequency radiation from standing next to a smart meter for 20 years is equal to a 30-minute cellphone call.

While the Union of B.C. Municipalities voted 55-45 in favour of a similar moratorium, Ashlie, the District of Maple Ridge’s UBCM representative, voted against it.

Despite Bell’s call for a moratorium not being supported, all councillors agreed the public still had a right to say yes or no to having the smart meters installed on their homes.

A moratorium would unfairly impact those want a smart meter installed on their home, said Coun. Al Hogarth.

“We have to be fair to both sides,” he said. “Smart meters allow people to monitor their consumption... hopefully we see the reduction of carbon production.”

Hogarth said that since the traditional power meters are more expensive to monitor, those who decide to opt out should be made to pay for the cost.

Ashlie criticized B.C. Hydro for failing to consult with the public about the project.

“They are a crown corporation,” she said. “They should be acting in the public’s best interest.”

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