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July 15, 2011 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Smart Meters: switch and fry?

If a car hits a parked car, damages it, then leaves the scene, it’s called a hit and run. So, it’s OK for CenterPoint Energy and their contractors to switch and fry?

The latest victim, oop’s, that’s “customer”, is grandmother Ruby Vallain of SW Houston. Houston – where daily temps are at or above 100 degrees right now. Watch her on the video as she talks about the fire. She no longer has any electricity – much less air conditioning.  She and her 3 grandchildren have sought shelter in family members’ homes for the time being (over a week) as she does not have the $14,000 to hire an electrician to make repairs.

It all started when the recently installed Smart Meter started showing an error message. (Guess it wasn’t as smart as it was supposed to be?) Although she had power in the house, Ruby Vallain was concerned and called CenterPoint. CenterPoint sent out a technician who poked around on the meter – when it suddenly shot out flames as Vallain stood in the yard and watched. He left saying she wouldn’t have electricity now.

Compassionate CenterPoint spokesperson, Alicia Dixon says that the problem is on the customer’s side of the box and not CenterPoint’s responsibility. She also says that her paperwork shows that box was already burned before the technician was sent.

Vallain had power before the Smart Meter was installed. She had electricity after it was installed. The electricity stopped after a CenterPoint technician, sent out by the company, poked around, and a fire resulted. Now a normal conclusion would be that the damaged was caused by…?

In the medical profession, one basic rule is “do no harm”. Doctors are cautious. If a surgeon operates on a patient, and something goes wrong, that doctor pays big time. The doctor gets sued, and may even lose a medical license/career.

A hit and run driver once apprehended and convicted may go the jail – or at least pay for damages.

In this area, if a kid plays with fire and “accidentally” starts a fire causing damage or burns a house, that kid, once apprehended, goes through the juvenile justice system, may have to pay restitution, and often goes though some sort of fire awareness/arson rehabilitation program.

CenterPoint Energy isn’t being run by kids. These are engineers, business people, and accountants. These are all adults. The company is bound to have an insurance company and risk assessment people in-house that look after company risk, liability, and accident prevention. Maybe they should adopt the “do no harm” philosophy?

So the question is:  if hit and run drivers, doctors who make mistakes, and children are all held accountable for injury and damages, why aren’t companies who insist on installing Smart Meters?

CenterPoint knows these Smart Meter installations often cause extreme damage to homes resulting in big repair bills for homeowners. The homeowners have not requested these meters be installed. If they had, CenterPoint would have it in writing and would probably be waving those forms to the media. Many homeowners are not even told ahead of time when the Smart Meters are to be installed – so they can prepare (like maybe stock up on candles and coolers with ice).

Think for a minute. I know it’s only TV, but during a murder trial, the criminal’s sentence (manslaughter or various degrees of murder) often hinges on whether the act was accidental (not aware of possibility of death) or intentional (knowing full well what the results of actions would be). I’m not talking about “motive”: “I want him dead because….”  Motive means the decision to act was made for a reason and it was planned – that’s premeditated.

OK. CenterPoint isn’t murdering people, but there is some reason to consider the comparison. CenterPoint wants to install these Smart Meters mainly because it benefits them greatly (motive). CenterPoint knows and admits these meters will damage/cause fires in what they call “older homes” built during or before the ’60’s. That’s a whole lot of houses. Yet they willfully install the meters anyway. Sounds like total disregard or ignoring consequences.

Sigh. What would Judge Judy say?

It’s the old switch and fry. Why can CenterPoint hit and run?

Are homeowners allowed to opt out? It’s not only the fire hazard, but there are growing health concerns with these meters. There’s also the concern that many of the elderly homeowners cannot afford to make repairs if damage is done – not to mention they can’t live without electricity.

Where are those high-flying legal eagles trying to make a name for themselves? It may not be as high-profile as the Casey Anthony case, but talk about an underdog group needing someone to stand up for them. I’d light up the Bat Signal, but what is needed is not a caped hero to punch out someone, but a heavy hitter in the courtroom or a straight-talking crusader in the political arena?

Come on Gov. Rick Perry. Sit tall in the saddle and watch out for your herd! We are all getting burned up over this Smart Meter thing. Round up your appointed posse, the PUC  (Public Utilities Commission). That’s the group that gave “electric delivery” companies permission to put a surcharge on electric bills for installations of the Smart Meters and allowed them to install meters in phases. (So customers have been paying for the meters since 2005, like them or not!)

Rick, rein in the Smart Meter arsonists! You can wear the white hat here. How about the slogan: “Texas, Great place for business AND ordinary citizens?” Think how it’ll play in the press: calling out those who recklessly harm the old, the poor, and, well, basically all of us. Nobody has much money to spare right now.

Meanwhile, maybe get a lock for the gate and a very large ill-tempered dog to guard the backyard and the working-just-fine meter that’s there.

(Read additional Smart Meter posts by clicking the “electricity” tag in the sidebar)


Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge

One Comment

  1. philosophermouseofthehedge / Jul 16 2011 4:30 pm

    UPDATE: According to Channel 26, CenterPoint denies any responsibility and now says there was not fire or “explosion”. But a group is stepping in to help this grandmother. Thanks, Roger Foster, with the International Brotherhood of Electricians

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