The Shell Game That Perpetuates Smart Meters

By Les Jamieson

Since 2011 there have been at least 10 different attempts to pass a law that would regulate digital utility meters, which have been misnamed “smart” meters. Calling technologies aimed at the consumer market smart should evoke well-placed suspicion in all of us. They all emit pulsed-microwave radiation (EMR—electromagnetic radiation), and are virtually unregulated and insufficiently tested. Agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control have yet to provide safety regulations appropriate to the high, pervasive levels of EMR we’re exposed to from Wi-Fi networks, wireless antennas, cell phones, and smart meters all around us. Says Norm Alster of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, “Echoing industry, the FCC has ignored the growing evidence that wireless technologies pose serious health risks.”[1]

With the intent to establish effective smart meter regulations, civic action has been attempted for several years by organizations and individuals across New York State who have studied the issue, proposed ideas for legislation, and lobbied their state senators and assembly members. Many meetings were arranged to educate legislators by providing them with scientific documentation and testimonials by people who have been sickened from exposure to smart meters. Symptoms include headaches, nausea, dizziness, neurological disorders, sleep disorders, and cardiovascular problems.[2] This amounts to a condition termed “electro-sensitivity,” which has been recognized in the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).[3]

It’s perplexing that securing the right for the public to have a safe, trustworthy, time-tested analog meter has been such an uphill battle. After all, analog meters have worked reliably and accurately for a hundred years. But the right to make what should be a no-brainer choice has been kept out of reach for New Yorkers since smart meters were imposed upon us in 2009. 

Several other states have passed smart meter regulations that allow residents to refuse installation of these digital devices by “opting out” without having any fees imposed.[4] New York City residents who are aware and choose to opt out must accept a fee of $9.50 per month. For whatever reason, if you own a small business or multiple dwelling, you cannot opt out of what the utilities service providers designate as a commercial account. Imagine that. All the small businesses in your neighborhood aren’t allowed to protect themselves or employees from what often is close proximity to smart meters, which is in violation of one of the few FCC regulations. Also, if you live in a larger housing complex and want to opt out but others do not, you still stand the risk of exposure to EMR emissions from smart meters as well as dirty electricity from wiring throughout the building.[5]

For a bill to become law, the same proposal must be introduced in the senate and assembly, where it is reviewed and assigned a bill number by each chamber. Then it gets voted on by a committee. Once it passes the committee in each house, it gets reviewed by the Rules Committee. If it passes muster, the majority speaker puts the bill on the agenda to go before the entire legislature for a vote. If it passes, it goes to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, or possibly be vetoed.

The legislative session begins the first week of January and ends around June 8th. Last year. During the 2021-2022 legislative session, Senator Pete Harkham submitted S.8765, the most effective smart meter bill to date. This bill contained language that would allow us to keep our analog meter without fees imposed; and if we had a smart meter installed, we could instruct the utilities company to remove it and replace it with an analog meter. This is known as “analog choice.” An Assembly version, which is necessary if this was to become law, was introduced by Assemblyman Tom Abinante. We were very excited. It appeared that we would finally get the relief that was so necessary for every resident of New York. Well, not so fast. His bill had to go through the office that assigns numbers to bills. From mid-April to June many calls were made to Abinante’s office to find out what number was assigned to his bill. We needed that number so we could inform the public. After all, when we’re up against the interests of powerful corporate interests, the public has a major role to play. Although it should have taken a few days to get a number assigned, for some odd reason this did not happen until July 6, 2022. The Abinante bill was designated as bill number A.10555—a month after the legislative session had ended. It’s not a stretch to say that some entity with the power and knowledge of how to control the process effectively blocked analog choice last year.

For the current year, advocates for smart meter legislation figured we had better begin organizing prior to January to get a jump-start. We learned that Senator Harckham resubmitted last year’s proposed bill, along with some improvements. In addition to meters that measure electrical usage, the bill also applies to meters for gas and water usage. It was assigned as S.5632 on March 9th. That was early enough to do an informational campaign, get a “same as” version in the Assembly, and have everything fall into place to get it to the governor’s desk well before the end of the legislative session on June 8th, or so we thought. We generated many calls to Senator Harckham’s office to thank him for his efforts to enable New Yorkers to have analog choice. We also inquired as to how we could help ensure that an Assembly version of the bill was submitted. This is where we received conflicting and confusing information. I was told that first S.5632 would have to be submitted to the Consumer Protection Committee for a vote. Only at that point would it be presented to the Assembly for a member to draft a “same as” version. Oddly, this never happened. We continued to call every member of the Consumer Protection Committee to advocate for S.5632. Then another discrepancy arose, showing a disconnect within the legislature or possibly an attempt to divert it away from analog choice. Two other much weaker bills, S.404 and S.2587, were submitted. These bills mainly attempt to get a utilities company to comply with FCC rules and set up a research commission. Neither are effective or go far enough. Unlike the Harckham bill, these weaker bills did get Assembly versions, which bring them closer to getting floor votes and becoming law. Isn’t that curious?

Then we learned yet another bill had been submitted. On March 8th Senator Leroy Comrie of the 4th State Senate District in Queens submitted S.5586 to the Energy and Telecommunications Committee. Although this bill fails to articulate anything that allows for analog choice, it is the first bill that includes a provision that should be of interest to millions of New Yorkers. It stipulates that if more than one third of people in a multiple dwelling decline smart meters and wish to preserve usage of their analog meters, then the entire building must remain on analog meters. 

Through April and May we continued pushing for S.5632 to advance. After delays due to the legislature becoming bogged down in budget negotiations, we learned that the Consumer Protection Committee was to meet on May 24th. Then we learned that S.5632 was not even on their agenda! That meant they were not even presenting it to be voted on by the committee. I was told, contradictory to previous information I’d been given on the law-making process, that there first had to be an Assembly version for the committee to feel confident the bill could move forward. Why this foot-dragging? There were a few different assembly members who received plenty of calls to submit a “same as” version of S.5632. One of them was Deborah Glick, who represents District 66, the West Village and Tribeca, and is chair of the Environmental Conservation Committee. Another was Sarahana Shrestha, who represents District 103, the Woodstock, NY area. We’re still hoping to learn what happened. As the legislative session ended on June 8th, we have to wait until January 2024 before any efforts to pass smart meter legislation in the public interest can take place.

What must we do now? We have to use the next six months to become further informed, and build a statewide coalition to add to what has been accomplished to this point. For further research, readers can do a search on “smart meter concerns” and “smart meter health risks.”. Be sure to watch the award-winning documentary at the award-winning documentary at We also have to inform all legislators that claiming “compliance” with FCC safety regulations is an oxymoron. In August 13, 2021, the Environmental Health Trust and Children’s Health Defense won an appeal in which the FCC was chastised for its failure to review independent studies on biological damage caused by EMR, and for its failure to update its 1996 guidelines.[6] The FCC was remanded to return to the court to explain fully its rationale for denial of review. 

Become active with fellow New Yorkers by sending an email to Although we’re up against an entrenched corporate machine, we can coordinate our efforts to put a halt to the unnecessary smart meter technology. 

[1] See and fcc-is-a-captured-agency-commissioners-are-former-wireless-industry-insiders/

2 See

3 See

4 See

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2 thoughts on “The Shell Game That Perpetuates Smart Meters

    • Author gravatar

      Thank you for this very informative article. Not only has the FCC totally failed in its handling of digital utility meters but the New York State Public Service Commission, tasked with regulating utilities, has helped perpetuate this dangerous utility meter debacle. Shame on the PSC for allowing this to happen at the expense of public health, safety and privacy.

    • Author gravatar

      Trying to be a citizen advocate is labyrinthian and takes so much time, energy, perseverance. Thank you for featuring this work and thank you to the advocates focused on this important issue. And for helping us sort out all the different pieces of legislation and hopefully making it more straightforward next time around. So many reasons these meters are just a bad idea. Just the billing issues alone should get people interested to know about these ‘upgrades.’ I hear from so many different sources how bills skyrocket after installation of these things, or just seem high even when people are away on vacation. There is a lot of leeway for the utility to fudge the way they calculate, averaging out different sensor streams, it is not just a matter of measuring the flow of electricity anymore. You can look at the work of engineer Bill Bathgate and his testimony before the Michigan House Energy Committee. There is no real transparency or accountability. Also the poor design creates a lot of dirty electricity that adds to the bills, as well as the health hazards. So many reasons these should not be forced onto customers!

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