SMUD deception on the opt out program

Although it is a public entity and charged with working for the public and the public interest, SMUD continues to deceive its customers and conceal the opt out program from them including the analog meter option.

What are the obligations of a local public entity to its customers regarding openness?  The California Government Code, section 54950, says this:

In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that the public commissions, boards and councils and the other public agencies in this State exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly.

The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them. The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments they have created.

SMUD has never notified its customers about the smart meter opt out policy or the analog meter option that is part of it.  Sacramento Smart Meter Awareness has recommended many times, in writing and at Board of Directors meetings, that SMUD notify their customers about these items via:

  • an article in the monthly newsletter, Connections, that SMUD sends out with every electric bill
  • a note on page 1 of the electric bill like PG&E does
  • an email to the 250,000 customers who have given SMUD their email addresses

Unfortunately SMUD’s deception, concealment and pressure on customers NOT to get an analog meter has been going on at least since May, 2013.

SMUD has a long history of deceiving customers about the opt out program.  We know from the minutes of the June 6, 2013 meeting that SMUD has been refusing customer opt out requests, and deceiving customers, concealing information about the opt out program and the analog meter option, and pressuring customers who wanted to opt out to receive a “non-communicating” digital meter, which is not as safe as an analog meter, at least since May, 2013.  Minutes of the June 6 2013 meeting contain letters or declarations from 4 customers who were given this shoddy treatment by SMUD.

In the opinion of this author these are not coincidences.  These are all the result of a deliberate, intentional policy by SMUD.  It has been going on since at least May, 2013.  You can download a pdf file with these letters and declarations here.

BoD meeting June 6 2013 customer declarations

Hopefully more customers will become aware of the opt out policy and whether they qualify because they live in a single family home or they don’t qualify because they live in a duplex, they will contact SMUD and ask to opt out.

At the May 21, 2015 Board of Directors meeting, Director Bill Slayton said, speaking of the opt out policy in response to public comments:

“I think our, my view is that our obligation is to make sure the information is available if someone has a concern uh but uh I don’t believe we’re obligated to be the publicity arm for a group that has a particular view point regarding meters.”

Clearly Director Slayton, and the other Directors to the extent that they agree with him, doesn’t want SMUD customers to know about their right to an analog meter nor does he want those customers to exercise that right.  This is why claimant referred in public comments that night to Resolution 13-03-08 as “SMUD’s big secret”.

This statement is at 57:11 to 57:27 on the SMUD video, which you can find on this page which has videos and agendas for the past 12 to 14 months of Board of Directors meetings:

and at 15:13 to 15:30 on this video from the meeting:

SMUD also made a similar excuse at a March 19, 2013 Committee meeting.  Director Bill Slayton said, “Correct me if I am wrong but staff has no intention of putting this on the website” referring to the analog meter option.  “We have no reason to promote a concern we do not share.  We are not going to promote this but the information is there.  We will not be an advocate for this.”  A tall thin woman SMUD employee said, “You are correct Director Slayton.  This will not be a campaign.”

Apparently Director Slayton does not believe in Resolutions approved by the Board of Directors!  Nor does SMUD staff.  This was two days before the Board of Directors passed Resolution 13-03-08 which allowed customers to receive an analog meter and lowered the monthly smart meter opt out charge (Smooch) from $39 to $14.  In other words SMUD was planning on secrecy and deception from the beginning; before they even passed the resolution.

SMUD was still deceiving, lying to, and misleading customers about the opt out program and analog meters as of January, 2016.

Here is a shorter version of the video of the January 21, 2016 meeting.

Starting at 3:53 in that video are public comments from Dr. Julie Wie-Shatzel describing her experience trying to get an analog electric meter installed on her house by SMUD.  According to Board policy in Resolution 13-03-08, passed on March 21, 2013, (which you can download from the bottom of this page: ) Dr. Wie-Shatzel has a right to get such a meter as long as she agrees to pay the extortion charges and lives in a single family home.  Dr. Wie-Shatzel asked SMUD for an analog meter in October, 2015 and still did not have one as of the date of this meeting.

She is a very persuasive speaker.  You will have to watch the video yourself.  She had a brief discussion with Board President Nancy Bui-Thompson after her public comments.  SMUD talks a good game when confronted but behind the scenes, when they are not on camera, they lie, deceive, mislead, conceal, and pressure customers to accept the bogus non-transmitting digital meter even when they ask for an analog meter.  SMUD removed her smart meter and installed a non-transmitting digital meter and told her that it was an analog meter.  They lied to her.

Even though SMUD’s Board of Directors approved Resolution 13-03-08 on March 21, 2013, which amended the opt out program to offer customers the option of receiving an analog electric meter (which was the worldwide industry standard from the beginning of the electric grid until a few years ago) SMUD is failing to implement that Resolution and policy in a reasonable manner.

Here is a partial transcript of the conversation between Dr. Julie Wie-Shatzel and Board President Nancy Bui-Thompson after Nancy Bui-Thompson’s initial response to Julie’s public comments suggesting there was some confusion as to what kind of meter Dr. Wie-Shatzel  had requested.

Dr. Wie-Shatzel said, “So I did request the analog meter because that one doesn’t give off any radiation so then I won’t have to be concerned about” (Nancy Bui-Thompson’s and Arlen Orchard interrupted at that point).

SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard said right after her public comments and during the brief conversation between her and Nancy Bui-Thompson, “Yeah, no, I was gonna echo your.  We’ll have a staff.  I’m not exactly sure exactly which options we have for customers around meters but we’ll figure out . . . .“ (unintelligible).

Dr. Wie-Shatzel said, “So I hope I get the analog meter because it’s now January and I would say it’s not an easy process.  I had to make several phone calls, um, they keep trying to tell me that it’s the same, the digital meter is the same as the analog meter.  But my acquaintance who works at HP says that he has the analog meter.  My most recent call, after 25 minutes on hold, they did say there’s a work order for it.  But I just want to let you know, you Board members know, that this is not an easy process, especially for someone who may not be educated.  They would easily be misled into thinking that they are getting a safe meter that they are paying for, and they’re not actually getting a safe meter.”

(Nancy Bui-Thompson interrupted at that point)  “Sure.  And we do appreciate you coming in.”

Dr. Wie-Shatzel:  “Yeah, it’s important because” (Nancy Bui-Thompson interrupted at that point).  “It’s important because you know from a “(Nancy Bui-Thompson interrupted again)

Nancy Bui-Thompson, “Unfortunately your time is is is complete but we do appreciate you coming in.  I appreciate the manner of you addressing the Board.  So we will make sure we have the right people here to discuss the options.  Um if you’re again not satisfied please feel free you can emailed me.”  “If the process doesn’t work for you, if you’re not getting your answers, feel free to come back or to email myself or Tracy. . . .  She will be sure to.”

Dr. Wie-Shatzel:  “It’s not just for me it’s for everybody.”

Nancy Bui-Thompson:  “Sure.  Sure.  If it’s not clear we will make sure to clarify it so we will circle back with everybody to make sure that the website’s clear, the process.  We want, I mean just so everybody knows, I mean if you want to opt out it should be a fairly straight forward process.  And so if you’re not getting that so we will make sure to make sure.  So I think Director Shiroma just had a quick comment.”

Dr. Wie-Shatzel, “Exactly.  It should be an easy process.  It should be.  But three phone calls.”

Nancy:  “And we appreciate you letting us know that it wasn’t.”

Arlen Orchard:  “So Tracy will meet you if you’d like to talk to her.”


(End of excerpt from that meeting.)

This customer agrees with the statement by Board President Nancy Bui-Thompson that, “We want, I mean just so everybody knows, I mean if you want to opt out it should be a fairly straight forward process.”

This customer also agrees with Dr. Wie-Shatzel’s statement, “Exactly.  It should be an easy process.  It should be.”

A day or two after that meeting, and likely due to the fact that Dr. Wie-Shatzel appeared at this Board meeting and put the Board of Directors and staff on the spot for lying to her, deceiving her, giving her one meter and telling her it was another, and otherwise delaying and frustrating her, SMUD finally did the right thing.  They removed the non-transmitting digital meter from her house, which they had told her WAS an analog meter, and installed an analog meter.  This was 3 months after she asked for an analog meter, which was in October, 2015.

SMUD’s public statements on availability of analog meters have been right on.  The problem is that SMUD’s actions have not matched their words.  SMUD and its representatives, starting at the top with CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard, lack integrity.  The owner of this website has stated at a Board meeting that Mr. Orchard knows very well why this type of thing happens to SMUD customers who call SMUD to opt out and request an analog meter.  It’s because Mr. Orchard has instructed SMUD employees to do this; to deceive and mislead customers.  When a pattern has been going on at least since 2013, and when SMUD customers have exposed this pattern of deception etc. as far back as 2013, you know that this is not a couple of coincidences.  It is a deliberate plan.

SMUD CEO and General Manager Arlen Orchard described the analog meter option at the November 6, 2014 meeting of the Board of Directors.   Orchard said:

“Um I do want to um acknowledge um that there are customers who are uncomfortable for whatever reason with having a smart meter and would prefer uh the old analog technologies.  And this Board has recognized that those customers should have an option to choose a different technology, so they’re honoring the request of those customers.  And in fact any customer for whatever reason who does not want a smart meter is entitled to have SMUD install an analog meter in the place of the smart meter.​”​

(at about 1:00 and 3:34 in that video)

Yes, Mr. Orchard, you would be honoring the request of those customers IF SMUD were to notify all of its customers about the opt out program and analog meter option.  But you deliberately refused and failed to do so, to this date, more than 4 years after the Board passed resolution 12-03-09 creating the opt out program and 3 years after the Board passed resolution 13-03-08 amending the program and allowing the analog meter option for the first time.