UPDATE: SB241 has been voted out of committee and now awaits a vote by the full senate. The language of SB241 has been changed to make the op-out free of charge to consumers. We stand in strong support of this legislation. It needs your help in order to be brought to a vote. Please call the following Senators and ask for their support:
Campbell 512 463-0125
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It has been over a year since Rep. Dennis Bonnen wrote a letter to the Chairman Nelson of the Public Utilities Commission asking that the rules requiring mandatory installation of smart meters in Texas be changed “expeditiously” to reflect the permissive intent of his original legislation. While the PUC indicated in December that they would consider rule changes to allow for a smart meter opt-out mechanism for consumers, those changes are yet to materialize. Clearly, we Texans have a different definition of “expeditious” than does our PUC. In his letter, written in February of 2012, Rep. Bonnen requested immediate action from the PUC in order “that additional legislative action …not [be] required.” Well, you snooze you loose, PUC. Last week two bills were filled in the Texas Legislature to create a smart meter opt-out mechanism for Texans.
HB 1171, authored by Rep. David Simpson, allows “each customer scheduled to receive an advanced meter … to decline, without charge, to have the advanced meter installed; or allow each customer that is using an installed advanced meter to choose to have the meter removed, without charge.” Simpson’s bill also includes provisions making the distribution utility liable for any damage a smart meter may cause to a customers’ property and requiring all distribution utilities to inform their customers by mail of their right to opt-out of the use of advanced metering technology.
SB 241, authored by Sen. John Carona, states that for Texans who have not yet received a smart meter “the utility may charge the customer a reasonable fee for costs associated with the refusal of installation and with providing traditional metering services.” And for those who have a smart meter that they wished removed: “the utility shall remove the advanced meter; and may charge the customer a reasonable fee for costs associated with: removing the advanced meter; installing a conventional meter; and providing traditional metering services.” Like, HB 1171, Sen. Carona’s bill requires notice by mail to all consumers informing them of their right to opt out, but unlike HB 1171, SB 241 does not include any language about liability of the utility for any damage caused by the meter. Additionally, this senate version of the bill requires that: “The amount of the fee for a customer who declines to have an advanced meter installed must be the same as that for a customer who chooses to remove an advanced meter. “
Here is a quick breakdown of the major tenets in the two bills:
While both bills create the opt-out mechanism for which we have been working, HB 1171 aligns closest to our recommendations (given in testimony before the PUC on August 21, 2012). HB 1171 has been referred to the House State Affairs Committee and SB241 is currently in Senate Business and Commerce Committee. Each bill currently only has one author. Please contact your legislator and ask them to support and/or sponsor these measures to create an opt-out for Texans.
For further reading on our work on this issue please refer to our blog post: Smart Meters: We Texans Are Pro-Choice.
For resources on how to contact your legislator please download our free guide, How To: Influence State Law.