Citing health, safety and other concerns, the Montecito Association is hopeful of “opting out” of Southern California Edison’s Smart Meter Program.

The utility is in the process of replacing its household electric meters with new digital meters that will measure time-of-day usage and transmit that information for billing. The California Public Utilities Commission authorized Southern California Edison to install 5.3 million Smart Meters in its service area, which includes Montecito.

In a June 21, 2011, letter to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, the association states a number of concerns with the new program — mainly as a result of the new meters sending out a radio-frequency signal. These concerns include potential interference from other wireless devices, including medical; potential fire hazards; lack of security of the transmitted information; and overall health effects from the radio-frequency transmission.

“Given the many unanswered questions and public concerns about the Smart Meter program, we believe that individual rate payers and entire communities should have a choice in whether to participate,” said Richard J. Nordlund, president of the Montecito Association.

“In the event they choose not to participate, there should be no additional charge to the customer,” he added.

The association is asking Santa Barbara County to be among 40 other local governments in California advocating for the opt-out option for county residents.

The Montecito Association is a nonprofit organization that seeks to preserve, protect and enhance the semi-rural character of Montecito’s neighborhoods. Click here for more information on the Montecito Association.

— Victoria Greene is executive director of the Montecito Association.