For the second time in a month, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission ordered Thursday a hearing on a customer complaint that a Peco Energy Co. smart meter is responsible for a health problem.
By a 4-1 vote, the PUC rejected an administrative law judge's recommendation to dismiss the complaint of Stephen and Diane Van Schoyck of Langhorne and sent the case back for a hearing on the couple's assertion that they have experienced health problems and difficulty sleeping since Peco installed a smart meter in 2015.
Until last month, when the PUC allowed a Germantown customer's case to proceed, it had rejected a number of smart-meter complaints on the grounds that utilities were complying with Act 129, a 2008 energy-conservation law ordering all Pennsylvania utilities to deploy the digital devices. The law doesn't allow customers to opt out.
"The commission lacks the authority to compel Peco to remove the smart meter and allow the use of an analog meter, as the complainants seek," said Commissioner Pamela Witmer, the lone dissenter in both cases.
But the PUC's majority said the agency is duty bound to hear evidence the meters may violate the utility's legal obligation to provide safe service. The PUC said that its ruling was narrow, and that the Van Schoycks will have the burden to prove Peco is responsible.
"Holding a hearing to address the complainants' factual averments regarding these specific health effects will enable us to closely evaluate their claims based on a fully developed record," it said.
Peco and other utilities say smart meters, which maintain that two-way wireless communication, are safe. "Scientific studies have not demonstrated that the use of this technology causes adverse health effects," said Cathy Engel Menendez, Peco's spokeswoman.
Peco has spent $733 million to install 1.7 million meters, including a wireless communications network linking the devices.
Diane Van Schoyck said the couple has experienced a buzzing noise and difficulty sleeping since the meter was installed last year. She also said the signal from WPST, a Trenton Top 40 radio station, is audible in her electrical outlets and from the refrigerator.
"It's wrecking my life," she said Thursday. "I can't wait to get this meter off my house."