Federal labor board discusses Smart Meter fire problems

Electrical workers union official Bobby Reed was fired by Texas utility company Oncor after testifying about Smart Meter fire problems to the Texas Senate in 2012. The National Labor Relations Board has just released its Decision and Order on his case. http://apps.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d4582177a1a

It contains extensive discussion on the overheating and fire problems of Smart Meters found by union workers at Oncor and CenterPoint, both Texas utilities. Two culprits mentioned are the thinner blades in Smart Meters, and Landis and Gyr Smart Meters being too big for the meter socket. The blades inside the meters provide contact with the jaws of the meter socket. If the blades are too thin or the meter isn’t the right size, this causes inadequate contact or gaps which causes arcing. This is a fire hazard and also results in pitting of the metal surface. The arcing also creates “dirty” electricity – a very serious health issue.

Oncor went to great lengths in its testimony and accusations against Reed to defend Smart Meters.

Bizarrely, the labor relations board and administrative law judge went to great lengths to exonerate the Smart Meters. The judge stated these overheating, arcing, and fire problems are a connection problem, not a meter problem.

In sum, the record reflects that the primary cause of heating that resulted in burned out smart meters and in fires was not from any defects in the meters but rather stemmed from their connections with the meter bases. (p. 26 Decision, p. 19-20 Board Decision and Order — see below)

If this wasn’t such an enormous safety issue, this would be laughable. Political pressure on the Board and judge is the only possible rationale for such an absurd and dangerous decision.

If a meter is not made to correct specs, if it is constructed with cheaper, flimsier materials that do not do the job, then it’s the meter that is to blame.

The NLRB board in their Decision and Order “decided to affirm the judge’s rulings, findings, and conclusions.” They discuss Smart Meter safety issues particularly on p. 4-5, and dodge and weave around the fire problems, obscuring the meter as the problem-causer.

It’s astounding that these high paid, high-falutin NLRB lawyers don’t seem to grasp that electrical meters are a conduit for electricity, which is itself highly dangerous and which must be handled with care. Anything that causes a potential problem with electricity is a big red flag.

  1. Negligence and errors in meter specifications,
  2. Cost cutting to increase profits,
  3. Suppressing information and lying to the public – Reed testified that utility employees were instructed by the company to tell the public “it’s not the meter; it’s your meter can” — and then
  4. Making the public pick up the tab for all the damages

That is reckless and potentially lethal criminal conduct – very high stakes gambling. With the knowledge they have — all these utility officials and meter manufacturers — this could be called cold-blooded and pre-meditated murder.

These meters are the source of the problem. The meter manufacturer and the utility companies that use them are the causers of that problem. And that problem is causing not just “disgruntled” customers, as the NLRB board calls them, but dead customers, dead pets, damaged homes, and burned- up property.

The Decision and Order is here:

There are several sections on Smart Meters, including Reed’s Senate testimony on p. 14

This is the earlier Decision by the Administrative Law Judge (it is included in the Decision and Order): http://apps.nlrb.gov/link/document.aspx/09031d4581b1f209

Here is the full section where the ALJ asserts Smart Meters are not the problem:

From the ALJ decision, Nov. 4, 2014, p. 25-26
(included in Decision and Order, July 29, 2016, p. 19-20) 

Smart meters, smart meter bases, and fires

In key respects, the testimony of the General Counsel’s and
the Respondent’s witnesses were substantially consistent and
credible, and I find the following facts.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the smart meter
itself and its installation vis-à-vis the meter base in which it sits.

When the jaws in the lug in the meter base are too wide or
loose, either as the result of improper installation of the smart
meter and/or the thinner blades of the smart meter not fitting
well, this can cause the jaws to heat. Such heating can cause
the lug to break and the plastic block of the meter itself to heat
and burn, resulting in a flash or electric arc and in the meter
burning up. Broken or bent lugs can result from loose connections
between the jaws and the smart meter, improper installation,
constant putting meters in and out, tampering, improper
installation, or movement of the earth. The age of the meter
base is a contributing factor, as is its proper maintenance.

After smart meter deployment began, both Reed and Waugh
noticed more situations in which improper connection between
the smart meter and the lugs (the jaws in particular) had resulted
in heating and/or burning.

Managers Carpenter Moore, and Smith, and Supervisors Anderson
and Efflandt did not contradict their testimony. Thus,
following the start of deployment, troublemen told Anderson of
situations where the jaws were spread too wide apart and did
not make good connection with the smart meter, and they and
told him that the smart meters were heating up and the lugs
melting or burning. Anderson candidly testified that this occurred
“through the whole time” of deployment, not just in the
early part, and that he observed lugs that appeared to be heated
up and melted, along with damaged meters. Efflandt received
complaints from troublemen about smart meter installation
but not about the smart meters per se. He recalled incidents
in which, after the smart meter was installed, troublemen
would be dispatched because the customer was having flashing
problems due to changing of the meter. Carpenter and Moore
both testified about an increase in the number of burned lugs
during deployment, although Carpenter indicated that many
may have been preexisting. Moore testified that CATS tickets
in General Counsel’s Exhibit 26 reflect problems with smart
meter connections, not the meters themselves. Finally, when
Smith had discussions with troublemen in November, they
mentioned problems with installation of smart meters and with
components other than the meter itself (i.e., rings or jaws).

Consistent with the above, the reports that Local 66 representatives
Childers and Lucero received from members indicated
that that the major cause of burned up Itron smart meters in
Houston appeared to be due to loose connections, owing in part
to their thinner blades vis-à-vis the analog meters that they
replaced. This is what they told Reed in 2012. In line with
their testimony, Longeway, the Respondent’s expert witness,
was aware that Itron had produced models in which the blades
were too thin and did not seat with sufficient pressure in the
jaws of the meter base.

Similarly, when Reed and Assistant Fire Marshal Simmons
had discussions in 2012, the focus was on whether smart meter
installation caused fires, not on whether the meters themselves
did so.

Longeway testified about his controlled laboratory experiments
with L+G smart meters that led him to conclude that they
could not cause fires. Oncor had him examine four instances
where there were fires after smart meter installation to determine
if the smart meters were responsible. He concluded that
the smart meter had not caused any of them; rather, they were
caused by faults in the electrical system or by broken lugs.

Prior to Reed’s testimony before the senate committee, Greer
was aware that claims had been made that smart meters were
causing damage to customers’ property, and he had been informed
that in two incidents in Arlington, a problem with the
customer’s meter base had caused a fire.

In sum, the record reflects that the primary cause of heating
that resulted in burned out smart meters and in fires was not
from any defects in the meters but rather stemmed from their
connections with the meter bases.

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