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Court: PUC erred in smart-meter decision

July 13, 2012

The state's utilities regulators failed to ensure the delivery of safe and reasonable utility services in approving Central Maine Power Co's plan to install smart meters, according to a decision released yesterday by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The implications of the decision, however, are unclear, as the meters have already been installed.

In its decision, the court said the Maine Public Utilities Commission should have looked into health and safety concerns surrounding the wireless meters, and directed the PUC to take up those issues, according to the Portland Press Herald. The decision comes from an appeal filed in March by a 19-person group challenging the PUC's dismissal of its complaint that regulators didn't adequately address privacy and safety concerns. The court, however, did not agree with the group that the meters are a constitutional violation of privacy.

The PUC in 2010 gave CMP the go-ahead to switch out 165,000 meters, a project that cost $200 million and was half-funded with stimulus dollars. The PUC is now reviewing the ruling to determine how to comply. In a statement, CMP said the ruling didn't include a stay on its operations, so the decision has no immediate effect unless the PUC takes other action.