PG&E SmartMeter exec tries to infiltrate activists opposed to "SmartMeter"
Utility Exec Busted Trying to Spy on Consumers.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company's executive in charge of its "SmartMeter" program got caught using a fake name to try and join an Internet talk list operated by people who are fighting installation of the new meters.
PG&E, which provides natural gas and electricity to most of Northern California, has installed
ME: The executive in charge of PG&E's smart meter program went under an alias and to fight public opposition to the meters. Thankfully the moderator recognized who "Ralph" was so no further progression of questionable activity happened. It is pretty sad when corporate executives themselves use tactics the police use. Direct corporate monkeywrenching? Thankfully corporate execs and their ilk aren't hard to identify.
PR WATCH: http://prwatch.org/node/9594
7.1 million wireless "SmartMeters" on properties throughout central and northern California. The meters record power consumption and report the information back to the utility at least daily. The power company touts the meters a stepping stone to an improved, more flexible electricity grid, but consumers complain that their monthly utility bills spiked after installation of the meters, and have expressed concern about exposure to the meters' electromagnetic fields. William Devereaux, the senior director of PG&E's $2.2 billion SmartMeter program, posed as an anti-smart meter consumer using the fake name "Ralph" to try to gain admission to the online discussion group for people trying to block use of the SmartMeters. Devereaux used his usual email address, which appeared next to his name, and the list moderator recognized him.
San Francisco Chronical ARTICLE: link to www.sfgate.com
"A Pacific Gas and Electric Co. executive in charge of the utility's SmartMeter program admitted Monday that he used a fake name in an effort to join an Internet discussion group of SmartMeter opponents.
William Devereaux, senior director of the $2.2 billion SmartMeter program, used the name "Ralph" when he sent an e-mail to the moderator of a discussion group for people trying to block deployment of the new, wireless electricity and gas meters. But his real name appeared next to his e-mail address.
The moderator recognized him immediately. Devereaux has often spoken publicly in defense of the meters, rejecting criticism that they may be inaccurate or that their radio-frequency emissions may be a potential health hazard.
"This shows that this guy PG&E has been putting forward to all the local governments, saying SmartMeters are safe and accurate, has had his credibility severely damaged," said Joshua Hart, with the group Stop Smart Meters. Hart's organization, and several others fighting PG&E over the meters, published Devereaux's e-mail Monday and called for an investigation by the California Legislature into the entire SmartMeter program.
Monitoring online groups
In an interview with The Chronicle, Devereaux said that he had been monitoring online groups of SmartMeter foes for a couple of months.
"I joined that (group) anonymously to better understand the concerns and the points of view of those folks so that we could do a better job of getting our facts to our customers," he said. "I did make a mistake, obviously, in trying to join this ... group and trying to use that alias name, which I'm sorry for."
Asked whether the revelation would hurt his credibility with public officials who have questioned the meter program, Devereaux replied, "I certainly think it may."
PG&E, based in San Francisco, has installed 7.1 million SmartMeters throughout central and Northern California and considers them a basic building block for the "smart grid," a better and more flexible electricity grid that state and federal officials want to create. But the program has been dogged by complaints that the meters lead to sudden spikes in monthly bills. In addition, people who believe that the radiation from wireless devices threatens public health have insisted - without success - that state regulators halt the program.
Clean bill of health
Public furor over the meters had faded in recent months. In early September, a state-sponsored investigation of the meters' accuracy gave them a mostly clean bill of health. The fatal explosion of a PG&E natural gas pipeline in San Bruno several days later also helped divert attention from the meters.
Monday's revelations, however, could rekindle the meter controversy. So could a recent recommendation from a division of the California Public Utilities Commission that the SmartMeter health issue be studied in depth.
Meter opponents have suspected for months that someone from PG&E has been monitoring their online discussions. Two weeks ago, protesters hoping to block SmartMeter installers from leaving an equipment yard in Rohnert Park early in the morning arrived to find the place deserted, suggesting that the company had learned of the protesters' plans.
Hart said that someone posted a statement on a Marin County SmartMeter discussion group on Sept. 18 arguing that radio-frequency emissions aren't dangerous. The post wasn't signed, but it has the same personal e-mail address as Devereaux's, Hart said.
Then last week Devereaux had a brief e-mail exchange with Sandi Maurer, founder of the EMF (electro-magnetic frequency) Safety Network and a SmartMeter critic. Devereaux had applied to join a discussion group concerning EMF radiation and SmartMeters. His request showed only his personal e-mail address, not his name.
Maurer wrote back asking that he supply some information about himself before she would add him to the group. According to a copy of the e-mail exchange supplied by Hart, Devereaux replied on Thursday:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I've been traveling a lot.
I live in Oakland where Smart meters have been sweeping across town and wanted to learn more about them and join the conversation to see what I can do to help out here.
Devereaux's real name, however, appeared next to his e-mail address. Maurer recognized it and wrote back:
Aren't you the head of the Smart Meter program at PG&E? We'd love your help!"
She then asked him to help opponents obtain a moratorium on deployment of the devices.
It was unclear Monday whether PG&E would discipline Devereaux over the incident. Asked whether he might be removed from his position as director of the SmartMeter program, Devereaux said, "I really have no idea."
E-mail David R. Baker at email@example.com.
This article appeared on page A - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle
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