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Smart meter foes resurrect court fight

Re-filed lawsuit asks that residents be allowed to use analog electric meter at no extra cost

By: Melissa Jenco |

Opponents of Naperville’s smart meter program have re-filed their federal lawsuit to include more evidence to back up their concerns over health, safety and security and show their constitutional rights are being violated.

The amended lawsuit now seeks to force the city to replace smart meters with analog meters upon residents’ request at no cost.

“A lot of new information has come out in the past year and a lot of additional bad behavior from the city,” said Doug Ibendahl, attorney for the smart meter opponents.

The city has installed smart meters on more than 57,000 homes that officials say will help them operate the electric system in a more efficient, reliable and cost-effective manner.

But members of the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness group filed a federal lawsuit in December 2011 citing “a multitude of serious health, safety, security and privacy concerns” over the meters that wirelessly transmit data about electric use to the city, which runs the utility.

Judge John Z. Lee questioned both sides about the case for about two hours in September and issued a 24-page written decision last month that dismisses claims residents’ constitutional rights are being violated. However, he allowed the smart meter opponents to re-file an amended lawsuit.

The revised litigation describes some of the clashes the opponents have had with the city including the January arrests of two of its leaders for interfering with meter installation. It also touches on issues other cities have had with fires related to smart meter installation, points to the hacking of Naperville’s website to show there are security risks and further details concerns over the effect of radio frequency on health.

The suit alleges violations of residents’ constitutional rights to due process, equal protection, protection from unreasonable searches and protection from invasion of privacy. It also now accuses the city of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

City officials have repeatedly said the meters are safe and that safeguards are in place to protect customers’ privacy. City Attorney Margo Ely said she again will ask Lee to dismiss the lawsuit.

“We believe the lawsuit lacks merit,” she said. “I think it’s a fair public policy debate to have, but smart meters do not violate people’s constitutional rights.”