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Smart-Meter News: Maine Supreme Judicial Court Rules MPUC Must Resolve Health and Safety Concerns


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Smart-Meter News: Maine Supreme Judicial Court Rules MPUC Must Resolve Health and Safety Concerns

N. Joel Moser

By N. Joel Moser  |  July 19, 2012

In a recently published opinion, Friedman v. Public Utilities Commission, 2012 ME 90, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court reignited the public debate over Central Maine Power’s $200 million smart-meter technology project – a debate that has spilled over onto the doorsteps of many municipalities. In light of the decision, the Maine Public Utilities Commission likely will provide some meaningful opportunity for public comment regarding the health and safety of smart meters. This should come as welcome news for municipalities that have received numerous requests for a local moratorium on the installation and use of smart-meter technology despite the MPUC’s authority over the matter.

The highly publicized dispute began after the MPUC approved CMP’s advanced metering infrastructure project and related ratemaking proceeding. Shortly thereafter, several CMP customers filed health and safety complaints regarding the project. After an investigation, the MPUC issued two orders that allowed CMP customers to opt-out of the smart-meter installation for a fee. In response, several CMP customers filed a complaint with the MPUC seeking a full investigation. The MPUC dismissed the complaint without a hearing, and the CMP customers appealed the MPUC’s dismissal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

In a recent opinion, the Court concluded that the MPUC was justified in dismissing the customers’ privacy, trespass and constitutional claims brought against CMP. The Court did, however, conclude that the MPUC erred in not making a determination on the merits of the health and safety concerns raised by various individuals regarding the smart-meter technology. The Court did not find that there are health risks associated with the smart-meter technology, but rather that the MPUC was required to at least consider the issue before dismissing the customers’ complaint.

Municipalities should anticipate some type of MPUC review regarding smart-meter health and safety issues, during which there likely will be an opportunity for broader public input. Given that many individuals have come to municipalities to seek a local ban on the installation of smart meters, the MPUC’s review may shift the center of the debate back to the MPUC forum and away from the local town hall.

The full opinion can be read here.

For more information on this decision or proceedings before the MPUC, please contact N. Joel Moser at 207 228-7155 or jmoser@bernsteinshur.com.