UPDATE: Office of Ohio Governor Kasich intervenes. Details posted below.
A handicapped woman in western Ohio has to battle the freezing winter weather this weekend because she refused to allow the local power company to install a “smart meter” on her property.
Brenda Hawk has a pacemaker for her heart and because her brain was injured in a car accident, she requires a breathing machine in order to sleep at night. She does not want the new radio-frequency emitting meter because of the health problems these devices have been said to cause. But American Electric Power AEP-Ohio, the local power company, has persisted in their push to swap out Hawk’s analog meter and replace it with the new one.
TheBlaze spoke with Hawk on Saturday. At the time, she was using a kerosene heater to stay warm in the freezing weather. Hawk gave us a basic timeline on the story.
In October of last year, a utility worker arrived on her property and announced that he had removed her old analog power meter and replaced it with a new one. Hawk told him that she had not approved the meter swap and requested that the old one be restored. A series of phone calls between Hawk, the power company and the sheriff’s office was enough to get the new meter pulled out and the old one re-installed.
Fast forward to Jan. 24, 2013. A certified letter from AEP executive Ralph Rocca, Jr. arrived at Hawk’s home announcing that she would be getting a new meter or her power would be cut off. Her efforts to contact Rocca were not successful. All that Hawk wanted was a guarantee from the company that the new meter’s electrical signals would not interfere with her pacemaker. The company could not give her that assurance and it was her position that unless and until they did, no “smart meter” would be installed.
On January 25, after the letter arrived, she called the local sheriff’s office and claims that call was not returned. Hawk also wrote letters to her Congressional Representative Jim Jordan and Ohio Governor John Kasich asking why the new meter program had no “opt-out” clause for health reasons. Those letters were not responded to either.
On Feb. 1, 2013, a woman from AEP did call Hawk and asked about her concerns with the new meter. Again, Hawk explained the problem with the radio signals and her pacemaker. The company rep reportedly told her that it was as harmless as a microwave oven. Hawk cannot have a microwave oven in her home because of the problems it creates for her pacemaker. That phone call ended with the AEP representative announcing that the new meter would be installed next week or the power would be cut.
On Friday, February 8, two trucks from the power company and a sheriff’s patrol car drove onto Hawk’s property, uninvited. She informed them that they did not have an easement and therefore did not have access to the property and she intended to deny them access. Her question to the Allentown Sheriff was a simple one.
“Are you here to protect my property rights?”
Hawk said that his response was shocking.
“No,” said the sheriff, “I’m here to protect AEP – You’ll either have the meter or we’ll turn your power off.”
Hawk asked the officer and the power company reps how they could turn off the power to a home in the winter when it directly violates an Ohio law preventing elderly and disabled people from being without heat during winter months. They asked to be shown the law. Hawk quoted Ohio’s public utility law Chapter 4933: COMPANIES – GAS; ELECTRIC; WATER; OTHERS.
Hawk surmised that this law only prevents shutting off the power of people who do not pay their utility bills. She claims to have never missed a payment and is currently not in arrears with the power company.
Within minutes, the power was disconnected and Hawk’s home was without heat or water during one of the coldest weekends of the winter. Last night the temperature was in the mid-teens and the high temperatures for the weekend do not promise to get above 40 degrees.
As of Saturday afternoon, Hawk was trying to stay warm by a kerosene heater, but she worries about her horse, her chickens and the dog and cat that live with her. Without power, she is unable to draw water from her well, and her animals need water every day. She had a sleepless night because her breathing assistance equipment was useless without power. Her basement has also started filling with water, because her sump pump cannot work without electricity.
We tried to reach both Rep. Jordan’s office and the emergency offices of AEP for comment. Jordan’s D.C. office has no emergency contact number, just voice mail. And the AEP emergency operator referred us to the company’s main offices, which were closed for the weekend.
A call to Governor John Kasich’s office was returned and follow-up is expected soon. We will update this story as we get additional information.
Here is the video of Hawk telling her story to a member of the Ohio 9-12 Project.
This is not the first time that the subject of “smart meters” has appeared on The Blaze. Just last month, we brought you the story of Jennifer Stahl, a Naperville, Ill., woman who was arrested after refusing to allow a “smart meter” to be installed on her property.
Last summer, another pacemaker patient had problems with the “smart meter” emitting radio frequency that interfered with his implant. Since the meter was removed, the problem has disappeared.
(H/T: The 912 Project)
Shortly after this story was posted, a representative from Governor John Kasich’s office called TheBlaze asking for any additional background and contact information for Brenda Hawk.
Less than an hour after the first call from the governor’s office, we were again contacted and told that “something should be done soon.”
We are pleased to report that less than three hours after we reported on this story, a utility crew returned to Ms. Hawk’s home and reestablished her electrical power. In a phone conversation with the very happy homeowner, we learned that many Blaze readers had also reached out and tried to help her by contacting various government agencies. Apparently, switchboards at the state Capitol and senior service agencies were flooded with calls on her behalf. Brenda very modestly asked that we thank everyone “who wasted their Saturday on me.”