Call made for Trail meeting on smart meters

Smart meters raise a series of questions to the BCUC.

Mario Como chalks it up to anemia of the brain.

Getting a smart meter begs a series of questions, and as a concerned resident of Montrose—who partnered with co-chair Cliff Paluck of the Kootenay chapter of Citizens for Safe Technology (CST)—Como has raised concerns in Greater Trail about the issues surrounding smart meters about their health and safety risks and increased costs.

Como attended a Montrose village council meeting Monday for the third time this summer, now calling for a public meeting on the pending FortisBC application for smart meter installation in the West Kootenay.

In May Montrose village council carried a motion supporting a moratorium on the installation of smart meters within the community, echoing a Regional District of Kootenay Boundary-backed motion from the Union of British Columbia Municipalities that called for a moratorium on smart meters until more research is completed.

More than 50 communities throughout the province have also passed resolutions requesting either an opt-out motion or a moratorium of smart meters.

Como begged council to utilize the village’s recent moratorium on smart meters to leverage additional support in an attempt to engage the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC)—where the final decision on the meters resides—in a “letter campaign” to get a local meeting set up on the application.

“If there’s enough interest in Trail they can have a public meeting, but if there isn’t they can just bypass it,” he explained to council.

Members of CST were concerned the application could affect homes throughout Greater Trail, the West Kootenay and the Okanagan; excluding communities that have their own utilities, like Nelson, Grand Forks and Penticton.

During the meeting, Mayor Joe Danchuk asked Como to clarify who could approach the BCUC and asked about a recent Trail Daily Times article featuring former councillor Norm Gabana’s involvement in the smart meter debate.

“I need clarification because I read an article … and it stated that ‘I as a person couldn’t just approach the BCUC,’” Danchuk said. “There’s different ways of going about it and whoever is leading this from the opposition side said they were using Norm Gabana.”

Como quickly interrupted to explain that Gabana’s role was merely as an intervener and clarified that anybody, like Gabana, could write letters to express their view. During mid-August the CST applied for intervener status.

“Norm Gabana will perhaps be (an intervener), but there’s also two other fellas who will be intervening,” Como said. “But what this (request) is about, more or less, is a letter campaign to the BCUC commission to have a public forum.”

Individuals who wish to review the smart application can get involved by registering online to be an intervener before Sept. 7 or submit letters requesting the BCUC to host a public forum in Trail.

FortisBC filed an application with the BCUC July 26 for the installation of around 115,000 meters in the West Kootenay and Okanagan. The project has a capital cost of roughly $47.7 million and is expected to begin in late 2013. Its projected completion date is 2015.

Como said the public forum timeline suggested for Greater Trail could be tight, indicating that many people are out of town on holidays. Como asked village council to consider writing a letter to postpone the public forum until early next year so the community can get involved.

“We want to direct this right to the BCUC, not Fortis—Fortis is going to proceed with whatever they’re going to do,” Como said. “This is to express a great concern and a public outcry and the only way we’re going to change that is by having a public forum in Trail.”

Councillor Don Berriault raised concerns about the safety issues, searching for empirical evidence and Danchuk suggested raising the issue to chairperson Hans Cunningham at the next UBCM meeting. Council carried a motion to send a letter to the BCUC informing them of a need for a public forum in the Greater Trail area, reminding them of the moratorium they passed May 22.

Concerned homeowners can make similar requests to the BCUC office by writing to the sixth floor, 900 Howe Street, Vancouver, V6Z-2N3. To register as an intervener or get more information, visit www.bcuc.com. To learn more about smart meters, contact Paluck at cliffpaluck@shaw.ca or 250-365-5420 or call Como at 250-367-6386.