Breaking: New York utility company ordered to stop charging “opt-out” fees

Central Hudson Gas & Electric was ordered Thursday to stop charging residential customers a $6 monthly “opt-out” fee if they refused meters the utility can read remotely because they fear that microwave radiation from the meters will harm their health.

The decision by the state Public Service Commission rescinded the approval it gave Central Hudson in 2014 to impose the fees. Central Hudson, the company supplying electricity and natural gas to parts of Orange and Ulster counties and other Hudson Valley areas, had asked to charge customers who opted to keep conventional meters to cover the costs of paying workers to visit their homes to read them.

In its decision on Thursday, the commission also required Central Hudson to make “non-communicating, solid-state” meters available to customers who request them. It did allow the utility to charge customers a one-time fee to replace an already-installed automated electric meter with a conventional one.

Central Hudson had been installing automated meter-reading devices since 1990 and had them on 39 percent of its residential customers’ homes when the commission approved the fees. In granting approval in 2014, the commission declared there was no evidence that low-level radio waves from the meter readers posed “a significant health risk.” But opponents of “smart meters,” including Stop Smart Meters Woodstock, fought the fees over the next three years, and won on Thursday.

The decision coincided with a talk on “Smart Meters and Wireless Health Hazards” on Thursday night at the Orange County Citizens Foundation headquarters in Sugar Loaf. Scheduled to speak at the forum were David Carpenter, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at SUNY Albany; Michael Sussman, the civil rights attorney; and Deborah Kopald, an environmental consultant.

cmckenna at

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