Jennifer Stahl has been a strong advocate against the smart meter program in Naperville, Ill., for the last two years. The issue came to a head Wednesday afternoon when she was arrested while refusing to let the utility workers install the controversial device.
“I was protecting my property,” Stahl said in an interview with TheBlaze Thursday afternoon. “I felt my emotion was like a momma bear protecting her babies.”
Stahl was at a friend’s house when she received the call from her husband that the utility workers had arrived. She was home within 15 minutes and saw they were at a neighbor’s house. Her neighbors were not home, but they had signs stating they did not permit the new meter to be installed.
Stahl said she waited on her porch for the workers to arrive at her house. When they did, she refused them access to her backyard through her locked gate. The police — including the police supervisor, a sergeant — were called. Stahl said the sergeant explained the workers had authorization to access the meter, but Stahl stood her ground saying she didn’t approve it. The sergeant continued to try and convince Stahl to comply and said if she didn’t, he’d arrest her.
“The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right,” City Manager Doug Kreiger told the Chicago Tribune, which reported Wednesday’s events.
The lock on Stahl’s fence was cut, and when Stahl wouldn’t step away from the meter, she was lead away by an officer, cuffed and waited for a marked squad car to arrive to take her to the department. When asked why she was being arrested, she was told it was for interfering with a police officer.
The local CBS channel has footage of the arrest:
Did she ever think it would come to this?
“It occurred to me,” Stahl said, explaining that she previously had considered how far she would go to maintain her stance.
“I didn’t put my name on a federal lawsuit” to stand down now, Stahl continued.
The group Naperville Smart Meter Awareness has filed a lawsuit, for which there are currently motions to dismiss as well as to grant temporary restraining orders for residents refusing the meters.
Tom Glass, a member of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group, told TheBlaze Thursday he felt the fact that the city is arresting residents for refusing is “completely frightening in this day in age.”
“The city is still sending around people to read these [smart] meters … they don’t work,” Glass continued.
Stahl was one of two women arrested while smart meters were being installed on their property without permission Wednesday. Malia “Kim” Bendis was the second who received two misdemeanors for attempted eavesdropping and resisting a police officer, according to the Tribune.
This video posted to YouTube shows Bendis protesting the removal of her analog meter for installation of a smart meter:
Stahl estimated at the rate the city is going installing smart meters that they’ll be complete with 100 percent compliance by the end of the week. The Tribune reported 57,000 homes (99 percent) have them so far.
“It’s not acceptable that the city can choose for me on my behalf to install this meter that I don’t think is appropriate for myself,” Stahl said. “I choose to keep my analog meter because of all the issues. I can’t believe the city is not providing an alternative option.”
An alternative option of sorts is provided by the city. However, it still requires residents to receive a new meter. According to a Q&A document about the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative, homeowners are able to choose between participating in the smart grid program with a standard, wireless meter. Or they can opt out and will still receive what is being called a “non-standard” smart meter, which has the wireless card removed.
To receive a “non-standard” smart meter costs an initial, one-time fee of $68.35 (this is the cost difference between the two meters) and a monthly fee of $24.75 for manual reading of the meter. The Q&A emphasized that no existing analog meters will be retained by customers and that the new non-wireless, non-standard smart meters installed for residents opting out of the program requires new equipment and special training for workers to learn how to read them.
“Therefore, there is an incremental cost for this service,” the Q&A explains.
The controversy over smart meters has been seen in cities around the nation. Some have concerns about the type of data the smart meters will allow to be collected (and how that data will be used). Others worry about the health risks associated with transmitter in the smart meter, including headaches, insomnia, tinnitus and DNA breakdown.
Here’s video of a third Naperville mother emotionally refusing the smart meter Wednesday fearing her daughter’s health:
As for Stahl, she said when she arrived home later, the smart meter was installed.
“I choose to rise above. I’m not going to worry about what I’m going to do [about the meter] at this point. I’m going to focus on my energy into mobilizing the people of Naperville and around the country … to do something to take a stand as well,” Stahl said.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include information about the option for customers wishing to opt out of the smart meter program.