GRANTS PASS, Ore. — On Thursday, the Josephine County Board of Commissioners met for their first reading of an ordinance intended to appease those who have resisted Pacific Power's transition to smart meters. By Friday, the utility company had responded — indicating that no such thing was possible.
"As a member of the local community, we always seek to earn our customers’ business and uphold their trust. That responsibility includes providing clear and helpful information around Josephine County’s proposed ordinance," Pacific Power said in a statement.
The utility company said that they had sent a letter directly to the County, laying out their response. Pacific Power also said that they had requested that the proposed ordinance be "removed from consideration."
"We were compelled to send this letter because the rates and regulations that govern our business are determined exclusively by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon. This ensures fairness for all of our Oregon customers. We are committed to addressing all stakeholders’ concerns within the framework established by the Oregon legislature and the Public Utility Commission of Oregon," Pacific Power said.
The company claims that a county ordinance cannot scrap or change Pacific Power's meter reading or exchange fees, which have been approved by the Public Utility Commission. Those fees are non-negotiable, the company says, as all Oregonians are supposed to be subject to the same rates.
"Customers who have opted out but do not pay the applicable fees would fall behind on their account and could be subject to disconnection for non-payment and additional fees to reconnect," Pacific Power said.
Smart meters have met with stiff resistance from several local groups. Notably, the community of Mt. Shasta requested a stop to smart meter installation due to public outcry. In Jackson and Josephine counties, protesters have picketed informational meetings held by Pacific Power, which the company has held to help dispel concerns over the change.
According to Pacific Power, the flames of this distress may be fanned by outside influences:
"Pacific Power has identified several out-of-state groups that are providing, and in some cases actively charging for, white papers, videos, and speaking engagements that perpetuate incorrect or misleading information. Pacific Power provides information on smart meters that can help customers navigate misinformation being promoted on websites, social media, and through word-of-mouth."
The company says that more than 70 million smart meters have already been installed at homes and businesses across the nation — half of all households in the U.S.
"Pacific Power smart meters are a key component to updating the energy grid initially built for technology from 100 years ago," the utility said. "They also help us hold down operating costs, improve customer service and reliability while maintaining the highest standards of security and customer privacy."