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Class action lawsuit against smart meters launched

The operator of a Salt Spring Island yoga and meditation retreat has taken the first step in an anti-smart meters, class action lawsuit against BC Hydro.

A statement of claim filed yesterday said BC Hydro installed a smart meter on Aug. 22, 2012 against the wishes of Nomi Davis, whose requests for removal of the microwave device have been refused. The installation was recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

"The installation and operation of the microwave device is an act that exceeds the scope of the defendant's right to access the plaintiff's property for the purpose of reading, repairing or replacing the meter," said the claim, filed by Nelson lawyer David Aaron. "By installing the microwave device, the defendant has added a communication device to the meter that is not necessary to the functionality of the meter as required by law and yet has material implications on the rights of the plaintiff."

The claim says the smart meter has disrupted Davis's quiet enjoyment of the property and the yoga and meditation sessions at her residence.

"The presence of a device with bio-effects on the plaintiff's property has disrupted the integrity of the space as a sanctuary for meditation, peace of mind and resonant attunement," said the court filing.

The documents says the microwave device installed in smart meters emits radiation at 902 to 928 Megahertz and that the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified those emissions as possibly cancer-causing. The filing concedes that the scientific community is divided on whether exposure causes harm to humans.

"The defendant uses the threat of cutting of electrical supply to compel the plaintiff to accept the continued operation of the Microwave device at the property," said the documents.* "Without any contractual or statutory right, the defendant has used its monopoly status to coercively and deceptively impose the microwave device on the plaintiff against her express wishes."

Aaron will be seeking a judge's certification of the lawsuit as a class-action, which could open the door to hundreds of thousands of plaintiffs. BC Hydro has yet to file a statement of defence.

The lawsuit was filed a week after Energy Minister Bill Bennett said BC Hydro customers would have the option to use an analog meter or a smart meter without a radio device. The additional charges weren't announced, but approval will be sought from the B.C. Utilities Commission.

Meanwhile, FortisBC got the regulator's go ahead on July 23 to instal 115,000 smart meters. The BC Liberals excused BC Hydro from regulatory oversight for the installation of 1.8 million smart meters in a loophole contained in the Clean Energy Act of 2010. BC Hydro says 60,000 people have refused to accept the devices.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent Tyee contributor.

*Typo fixed at 2:20 p.m.

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