Courtesy of the City of Naperville
Judge Denies Injunction to Allow Residents to Retain Analog Electric Meters
On Thursday, April 19, the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group asked a federal judge to order the City to allow Naperville residents to retain their existing analog electric meters and resist installation of a smart meter. Judge Edmond Chang denied the request, referencing the group’s delay in requesting injunctive relief. Installation of the new digital smart meters, part of the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI), continues to remain on-time with almost 40 percent of meters installed throughout the community.
The federal lawsuit was filed approximately one week before the City started meter installation; however, the plaintiffs did not request injunctive relief until today. Since the original filing of the case, the lawsuit has been amended to add nine plaintiffs who are Naperville residents and utility customers. The parties appeared in court today because the plaintiffs filed a motion for preliminary injunction asking the court to order the City to offer citizens the option to keep their analog meters while the case proceeds. Although the court denied the requested relief today, the parties will file written legal arguments on the matter in the next month. The court will also consider the City’s motion to dismiss, which asks the court to dismiss the case in its entirety.
“This lawsuit simply fails to state a case,” City Attorney Margo Ely said. “It is an attempt to utilize the court system to overturn a lawful, legislative decision by the City Council. This is not an appropriate use of our judicial system. The plaintiffs’ claim that smart meters can monitor private activities in homes has no merit. The City’s smart grid initiative does not implicate any constitutional or other legal rights.”
For more than 100 years, the City has operated its electric utility, which includes ownership and maintenance of the equipment such as electric meters located on homes and businesses in the City. As the utility, the City is authorized to determine what equipment is needed to operate the utility.
The NSGI is an upgrade of the City’s $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers and empower them with more information on their energy usage. As part of the NSGI, the City is visiting homes and businesses to replace existing electric meters with new wireless smart meters. These digital wireless smart meters measure energy use in near-real time and securely and safely transmit this data remotely to the City’s electric utility on a daily basis, giving customers a new level of awareness and control over their energy use. While customers may choose a non-wireless meter alternative to the standard wireless smart meter, they do not have the option to keep the current analog electric meters.
Today’s court appearance is not the only time the smart meter opponents have lost an argument. The City recently experienced another victory regarding a complaint filed with the Illinois Attorney General stating the City allegedly violated the Open Meetings Act by not opening NSGI Steering Committee meetings to the public. The Illinois Attorney General ruled this committee is not a public body and therefore not subject to the Open Meetings Act. In addition, a complaint filed with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency regarding smart meter radio frequency emissions was determined to have no merit and dismissed.
In addition, the group lost appeals at the Circuit Court and the Appellate Court asking for an order to place a non-binding referendum on the ballot last March. After an extensive hearing before the local Electoral Board, it was determined that the group did not collect a sufficient number of signatures, as required by law.
“The opponents have now lost battles before multiple authorities outside of the City Council,” Ely said.
To date, the City has responded to more than 130 FOIA requests from the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group, providing thousands of documents and e-mails and hearing their thoughts at more than 20 City Council meetings within the past year.
“We remain confident that this project is the right thing to do for our customers,” City Manager Doug Krieger said. “Meter installation continues to move along and the City continues to gain national recognition for its customer engagement practices. The electric utility industry is moving in the direction of a smart grid and smart meters, and Naperville remains a leader in this industry.”
For more information on the NSGI, visit www.naperville.il.us/smartgrid.aspx. For more information on the City of Naperville, visit www.naperville.il.us. Sign up to receive the latest news on the City of Naperville’s projects and initiatives via email at www.naperville.il.us/enews.aspx.