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Group's bid to stop BC Hydro's smart meters rejected

Two women stand in front of BC Hydro headquarters as they protest BC Hydro's use of smart meters in Vancouver, BC, Feb. 29, 2012.

Jeff Vinnick for the Globe and Mail/jeff vinnick The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Utilities Commission has dismissed an application from a group opposed to BC Hydro's smart meters.

In a decision issued this week, the commission said there was "insufficient evidence" to halt the smart-meter installations. The Citizens for Safe Technology Society had argued BC Hydro did not have to install a wireless system, which has raised health concerns for some.

BC Hydro argued the province's Clean Energy Act did not stipulate whether it had to install a wireless or hard-wired system.

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"The commission finds there is insufficient evidence to substantiate the complainants' argument that the legislature intended by BC Hydro to use a specific type of equipment, wired or wireless, to fulfill its obligations..." the commission wrote in its ruling, dated March 5 but released to the public Thursday.

The commission also rejected the CSTS's argument that the chip installed in each smart meter violated the Clean Energy Act. The society had cited health concerns over electromagnetic radiation emitted by the meters.

David Aaron, the lawyer who argued on behalf of the society, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

BC Hydro said Thursday it is nearing the halfway mark of smart-meter installations. It has installed more than 890,000 new meters. They hope to reach all 1.85-million customers by the end of the year.

BC Hydro said more than 99 per cent of customers have accepted a smart meter and more than 1,800 customers who initially asked for the installation to be put on hold have agreed once provided with more information.

BC Hydro has long said the exposure to radio frequency over the lifetime of a smart meter is equivalent to a 30-minute cellphone call.

"The meters have been confirmed by our provincial, federal and international health authorities," B.C. Hydro spokeswoman Cindy Verschoor said in an interview Thursday.

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In 2010, the provincial government decided to exempt B.C. Hydro's smart-meter program from a hearing by the BCUC, which would have exposed the initiative to extended public scrutiny.

Groups like, part of a coalition that includes the CSTS, say the process did not allow for public consultation.

"There are some really serious issues around how these programs have been brought in," he said. "Had they been brought in a democratic manner, laid on the table and allowed a full public review process to occur, with testimony given under oath, we'd be happy," said spokesman Walt McGinnis.

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