The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors imposed a moratorium on digital meters Jan. 25 in its unincorporated areas. The move follows on the coattails of Marin County\u2019s Jan. 4 moratorium and Santa Cruz County\u2019s Jan. 18 extension of its meter installation freeze until the end of 2011. \u201cI think most lawyers agree the current form of moratorium is very likely pre-empted by the California Public Utilities Commission jurisdiction,\u201d noted Marin deputy counsel David Zaltsman. \u201cOn the other hand, this has never been tested in a court that I am aware of.\u201d The new CPUC members realize that resolution of the issue is inescapable. \u201cI don\u2019t know what\u2019s technically feasible,\u201d whether to allow customers, or counties, to opt out of the state\u2019s digital meter installations, said commissioner Mike Florio. But, he expects to look into the possibility, admitting that he, too, \u201cis somewhat skeptical of meters.\u201d Commissioner Catherine Sandoval also noted the issue is ripe for \u201cinvestigation\u201d as a parade of consumers continues to urge the agency to address their \u201csmart\u201d meter health and safety concerns. The new Mendocino ordinance invokes concerns about \u201chealth\u201d and \u201caccuracy\u201d of the meters, as well as their potential to interrupt radio communications. The Mendocino County sheriff\u2019s department reportedly acquiesced to enforcing the moratorium, although repeated calls to the department were not responded to by press time. Mendocino, Santa Cruz, and Marin are bastions of independent constituents. Those in unincorporated areas\u2014where the moratoria are aimed\u2014have a history of rebellion. For instance, when the state Department of Transportation insisted on spraying county roads with herbicides, residents took it upon themselves to stop what they declared a health threat on a coordinated basis. Objectors to meters invoke that same rural rebellion. \u201cWe\u2019re still a little bit \u2018Monkey Wrench Gang\u2019 but that\u2019s sort of faded,\u201d said Greg Krouse, Refuse Smart Meters Mendocino spokesperson. The Marin County-approved ban on \u201csmart\u201d meter installations in unincorporated areas remains at a standstill. The standoff between county agencies, politicians and Pacific Gas & Electric continues. County supervisors voted to halt digital meter installations early this year. Since then, the Marin Sheriff and District Attorney said they would not enforce politicians\u2019 move. PG&E maintains that continuing installations benefits customers, according to spokesperson Jeff Smith. He declined to specify how many installations have occurred since Marin\u2019s moratorium. Instead, he reiterated that in recent months the utility held 35 meetings with concerned citizens in the North Bay county. Further action by the county in light of PG&E\u2019s refusal to abide by the ban is predicated on a meeting with county counsel, according to Marin\u2019s Zaltsman. That meeting hasn\u2019t occurred, he added. PG&E\u2019s Smith claims that the utility responds to all requests by officials to get together. Marin\u2019s political atmosphere is caught up in a larger state effort pushing for universal installation of digital meters. The CPUC\u2019s authority in the general area of utility regulation trumps that of municipalities (Current, Jan. 7, 2011). In the absence of litigation to decide whether consumers \u2014or in aggregation on a municipal level\u2014may have the last word on digital meters, the default remains at the commission. The CPUC required digital meters and did not allow opt outs for consumers. While several areas of the state are vocal about smart meter concerns\u2014Central Valley, Santa Cruz County, and Marin are in the forefront\u2014the CPUC currently does not have an avenue for consumers to opt out of digital meter installations. If a consumer directly confronts an installer, the installation may be delayed or terminated. But that consumer has to be on premises at the time of attempted installation. Consumers cite concerns over health effects of the meter\u2019s radio and electro-magnetic frequencies, as well as fire, privacy, and radio communication hazards. The CPUC is allowing utilities to spend about $5 billion to install meters throughout California. Regulators\u2019 theory is that in the future, consumer habits can be shaped by signals meters provide when energy costs and use are high or low. Thus, regulators expect that excess power production facilities won\u2019t need to be built, saving costs and reducing pollution.