How will people in Western Maine respond to having the so-called Smart Meters installed on their homes?

No word yet, mainly because Central Maine Power hasn’t begun installing them yet in this region.

The meters, which are more precise and capable of transmitting information to CMP, have been a hot topic in southern Maine.

About 5,000 people have asked to be exempted from CMP’s program. About 170,000 homes and businesses now have the new meters.

Two lawmakers have filed legislation to limit their spread. One bill would require an opt-out provision and the other calls for a one-year moratorium. Both have been tabled awaiting a Public Utilities Commission ruling.

We have argued before that the evidence of danger from these devices is overblown, especially in a society where wifi signals can be detected on most urban street corners and about half of all drivers seem to have cell phones glued to their heads.

A CMP customer service person recently recounted one customer who complained that the Smart Meter was causing his pacemaker to malfunction. After investigating, CMP found that the man’s house didn’t even have a Smart Meter.

Which illustrates the challenge CMP faces rolling these out to all of its customers. A certain percentage of people will be frightened by anything new, especially when they have no choice about adopting it.

People seem to be much more sensitive to health risks they perceive having been thrust upon them, especially when it is difficult to comprehend the technology involved.

That’s why we also advocated that CMP allow people to opt out of the Smart Meters, but to recoup that additional expense of reading their meters manually through a surcharge on their electric bills.

If 3 percent of CMP customers opt out of the cost-cutting program, they should bear the cost of maintaining a small manual meter-reading force.

As the company begins installing meters this summer, it will be interesting to see if Mainers outside the Portland area are as sensitive to the supposed health risk.

There are distinct advantages to the meters. They have cut labor and transportation costs for the utility, they are more accurate and they will eventually allow for lower time-of-use rates. That could help Maine distribute power produced at night by the state’s dams and wind turbines for heating and electric cars.

Our prediction: In ten years we will wonder what the fuss was about.

Dog grabs wheel in crash

Rep. Paulette Beaudoin, D-Biddeford, has submitted a bill, LD 546, that would prohibit people from driving a motor vehicle with an animal on their lap.

In February, we wrote that we shouldn’t have to legislate common sense but, given the number of people we see riding with a dog or two on their laps, this law might just be necessary.

An excellent example of the danger of riding with pets loose in a vehicle popped up last week when an Oxford man lost control of his van on Route 26 and it veered into the path of a tractor-trailer and burst into flame.

The man explained that his dog had jumped onto the steering wheel. He was uninjured, but the dog died in the flaming vehicle.

Apparently the law is necessary if only to make clear the obvious — pets and driving don’t mix.

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