MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. - State delegates caught wind of a Chevy Chase resident's protest and are taking it to session.
"I'm just getting really tired of the way the utility companies are treating the citizens of Maryland,” said Delegate Glen Glass, Harford County (R).
For several years Deborah Vollmer has refused to pay Pepco's smart meter opt out fees, an additional $14 per month for any home that doesn't use the new digital device.
"To be able to keep the old meters in place, there are a lot of costs associated with that, so that's basically what the smart meter opt out fee covers, to have a meter reader come by and read the meter twice a month,” said Marcus Beal, Pepco spokesperson.
Less than one percent of Pepco customers use an analog/legacy meter, but Vollmer says she wouldn't be surprised if that number goes up when research on electromagnetic radiation advances.
"I work on the precautionary principal,” said Vollmer. “I don't want to be like the canary in the coal mine and find out years later that this was harmful to my health."
Information from smart meters is transmitted hourly from homes, which avoids manual checking twice a month, increases information on energy use, and allows for a quicker response rate from Pepco.
But Delegate Glass says citizens shouldn't have to pay for something, they don't want.
"They absolutely make your bills go up, they cause fires, there's health concerns, and there's a privacy issue,” said Glass. “The utility companies know when you're there or when you're not there."
After reaching $413.12 of unpaid opt out fees, Vollmer gave in, reluctantly paying Pepco on the morning the company said her electricity would be shut off.
"I'm human like anybody else. I depend on electricity for not only heating and the lights, but also communications, and it would be a great hardship for me to lose that,” said Vollmer.
But she could see that check again; Delegate Glass plans to drop a proposal, now signed by 15 delegates in session next week.
"This bill would give people the right to opt out of smart meter and keep their electric analog meter, at no cost,” said Glass.