BCUC Fire Reports – Introduction

From: Sharon Noble, Director, Coalition to Stop Smart Meters <dsnoble@shaw.ca>

Subject: Update 2016-05-18  Special report on fires

COVERING LETTER FOR “RESPONSES TO BCUC FIRE REPORT DRAFT”:

As you all know, last June and July I submitted an official complaint to BCUC charging that it was BCUC’s responsibility under the BC Utilities Commission Act to protect the public from unsafe practices. BCUC was failing to do its job by ignoring the information that I had provided showing that the smart meters that BC Hydro is installing have failed, melted and burned.  BCUC has consistently said it was prevented by The Clean Energy Act and Direction 4 from interfering in any aspect of the program. I argued this did not apply to safety, and that the BC Utilities Commission Act took precedent over the actions taken by this government to preclude BCUC’s involvement.

After several months, I was told that staff report regarding my allegations and evidence would be ready by the end of 2015. In the middle of February, 2016, I was told the draft report was ready and BCUC asked if I would like to read it and make comments. Of course I said yes. They gave me 2 weeks to do so, with comments submitted on March 3.

In mid-April when I asked when the report would be published, I was told the staff was working on revisions, and I should be given a date within 2 weeks. At the end of April, I was told no date could be given. A week later I asked again because the public deserves to know what was in the draft — which I believe to be damning. Again I was told no date could be given. Last week I advised the BCUC that unless they disapproved of my releasing my comments without its report, I would do so today.  They did not respond.  I have taken that absence of disapproval as acquiescence.

I have gathered comments for your information with paraphrases of statements from the draft. The draft contained confirmation that no one — not the Provincial Fire Commissioner, not the BC Safety Authority, not BC Hydro — is tracking smart meter incidents. It seems that I have more information about what is happening than any of these agencies who are mandated to know, do know. And what is worse, no one seems to be concerned.

I have provided the full details of my comments in the attachment, which is long and detailed. Each of my charges and statements can be fully substantiated with documentation.  Below is a summary with which I concluded my response to the draft.

This should provide more than enough evidence to support our demand that these meters be declared defective and removed from our homes. Our lives and property are being put at risk.

Summary:

I would like to present you with a scenario to make abundantly clear the problems that now exist with the smart meter investigative process. The premise upon which this scenario is built is a hypothetical, so no admissions are required of you.  It is, after all, just a hypothetical.

 1- A home catches fire.  The inciting cause of the fire is the smart meter. 

 2 – That’s the hypothetical.  What follows is not hypothetical.  It’s reality.

 3 – While the fire is being fought, BC Hydro removes the smart meter.

 4 – BC Hydro immediately sends the meter to ITRON without doing any investigation.

 5 – When the fire department’s inspector inspects the scene all the evidence points to the area of the meter as being where the fire started, but with the smart meter gone, he is forced to say that the ignition source is “undetermined”.

 6 – The BC Safety Authority is not called so this agency with the electrical experts have no opportunity to view the fire scene.

 7 – The fire report is not completed for 15 months and therefore is not put on the system in time for the fire to be included in the annual report, but even if it had been, there is no accounting for fires with “undetermined” igniters.

 8 – The result is that no one knows the smart meter caused the fire and BC Hydro is able to say it is not aware of any situation where a smart meter was determined responsible for causing a fire.

 9 –  BC Hydro commissions and pays Mr. Len Garis to write a report about smart meter safety. Mr. Garis uses only the incomplete, inaccurate Fire Commissioner’s annual report, concluding that there have been no smart meter fires.

 It is obvious that no one agency is in charge of this program with regard to safety and oversight. All of the attention has been given to getting smart meters on homes at all costs without regard to the health, safety or desires of BC Hydro customers.

I would ask that BCUC fulfill its role of protecting the public according to the BC Utilities Commission Act by doing the following, at the minimum:

  • Require that an immediate and complete investigation by independent qualified forensic experts of the safety of ITRON smart meters currently on homes in BC be undertaken;
  • Establish one agency that has the responsibility for coordination of the various reporting agencies to ensure regulations are followed and that tracking/reporting of all fires is done as per those regulations;
  • Establish meaningful penalties (e.g. firing) for those who disregard or allow others to disregard regulations, e.g. removing smart meters from fire scenes before official inspection has been done, or neglecting to inform the BCSA of an electrical incident before the scene has been corrupted;
  • Amend the BC Electrical Safety Regulation which currently exempts utilities from any and all safety regulations, ensuring that any utility equipment that is put on private residences and businesses is certified by a qualified agency (CSA) or a professional electrical engineer licensed in BC.

Given the lack of oversight and due diligence by any of the agencies, it must be considered that other fire hazards might exist that are not being reported or addressed. The problems are systemic and likely not specific to the smart meter program. If it were not for members of the public who devoted much time and effort to investigating and documenting the problems, it is likely that they never would have come to attention. This failure must be investigated by an independent body with the authority to enforce recommended changes.

  The smart meter program is unique in that devices that have been known to have caused problems elsewhere, e.g. in California, and for years before the program began in BC, are mandated to be on every home and business. Lives and property are being put at risk by the very government and agencies who are sworn to protect them. It should not be left to the members of the public to fight the government and BC Hydro to protect themselves and their homes.

Sharon Noble
Director, Coalition to Stop Smart Meters

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RESPONSE TO “BCUC’s Staff Report on Smart Meter Fire Safety Concerns”

KEY:  Highlighted text is from Sharon Noble  Non-highlighted text is the draft report as written by BCUC staff.