07/26/2013 05:58 EDT | Updated 09/25/2013 05:12 EDT

BC Hydro Smart Meter Lawsuit Launched


VANCOUVER - The fight against the installation of BC Hydro's smart meters was given a new jolt with the launch of a class-action lawsuit on Friday by a yoga instructor from Saltspring Island, B.C.

Nomi Davis is suing BC Hydro for installing the device last year on her property even though she refused to have one.

Court documents say Davis was concerned about the device's high-frequency emissions, and when she asked the company to remove it, Hydro instead threatened to cut off the electrical supply.

The document said the installation of the meter, which measures power consumption, caused Davis "emotional distress," because it "interfered with the quiet enjoyment of her property," which she used to host yoga and meditation retreats.

The meter has "disrupted the integrity of the space as a sanctuary for meditation, peace of mind and resonant attunement," the court document states.

Opponents of smart meters claim the device's radio waves, which help transmit data to BC Hydro computers and allow consumers to monitor their energy use, have health risks.

Davis' lawyer, David Aaron, said in a news release the home is a private domain, where owners should have control over "environmental exposures generated from one’s own domestic dwelling." He alleged that BC Hydro unlawfully leveraged its "monopoly powers" to violate that right by imposing the smart meter on Davis.

However, BC Hydro said in a written statement it was obligated to replace Davis' meter with a smart meter due to safety concerns.

“In the case filed today, the meter’s glass was broken and could have compromised the safe delivery of power to the customer," said Greg Reimer, executive vice-president of Transmission and Distribution.

Reimer noted that B.C.'s court of appeal and utilities commission have previously dismissed legal challengers related to the installation of smart meters.

Davis' lawsuit demands that BC Hydro remove meters from homes where people don't want them.

Davis indicated she wants other people who feel the same to join the lawsuit, but a judge must first approve an class-action application.

Earlier this month, B.C.'s energy minister announced that people who want to opt out of smart meter installation can, but it will cost them about an extra $20 a month plus other maintenance fees.

The meters measure residents' power consumption and then use wireless signals to beam that information back to BC Hydro, which says the new technology will make the province's energy grid more efficient, sustainable and better able to respond to outages.

Hydro has said it has no plan to roll back its smart meter program. B.C.'s energy ministry has said in the past the smart meters allow residents and businesses to save money by making choices about how they manage their electricity consumption.

The B.C. Utilities Commission and the B.C. Court of Appeal have denied an effort in the past to force Hydro to stop installing smart meters.

The government and Hydro have also said smart meters only broadcast several times a day, and that living next to a smart meter for 20 years would expose a resident to the same level of radiation as a 30-minute cellphone call.

However, Citizens for Safe Technology Society, which is speaking on behalf of Davis, said in a news release Friday that the World Health Organization has classified microwave radiation as a possible human carcinogen.

"If I choose to avoid chemical fertilizers on my property because I think they're unhealthy, that is my choice," said Una St. Clair, executive director. "The same goes with my exposure to smart meter radiation. In a free and pluralistic society, a possible toxin cannot be forced down anyone's throat — or forced onto one's property."

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