The Tea Party is taking aim at \u201csmart\u201d meter installations. Tea Party members in Santa Barbara oppose the wireless devices largely on health and privacy grounds, and question the claimed energy savings and economic benefits. The Santa Barbara Tea Party & Culpepper Society opened the offensive April 28 with a public forum attended by some 400 people. The featured speakers seemed at first like odd bedfellows--ranging from conservative leaders to consumer advocates and a Democratic county supervisor from Northern California. They wound up sharing many similar concerns about the meters. After a stunning operatic version of the National Anthem, AM 1290 conservative radio talk show host Andy Caldwell framed the meter issue: \u201cYou have big brother and you also have the green movement telling us \u2018you must.\u2019\u201d Democratic Lake County supervisor Anthony Farrington joked that he forgot to bring his tin foil hat to the Tea Party forum, but expressed sympathy to concerns that the meters invade privacy and could limit individual liberty. He called on the audience \u201cto stand against big government for our inalienable rights.\u201d Privacy concerns arise from the ability of the meters to allow utilities to monitor electricity use in the home in real time, even distinguishing what types of devices are being operated. Concerns about infringement of personal liberty stem from the eventual planned use of the meters to remotely control energy using devices. In response to such concerns, Santa Barbara city council member Frank Hotchkiss announced that he and other council members planned to write to Southern California Edison to ask the utility to halt smart meters in the city until public hearings were held. Edison is the power utility in the Santa Barbara area (see sidebar). The anti-meter campaign is relatively new in Southern California. There have been relatively few complaints about the meters in Southern California, compared to in Pacific Gas & Electric territory. California Eagle Forum president Orelan Koehle criticized the meters on grounds that they represent the leading edge of the state\u2019s efforts to implement the United Nations\u2019 Agenda 21 by rationing energy use within homes and businesses. Agenda 21--developed at the Rio Earth Summit Conference in 1992--calls for sustainable approaches to development that balance economic and environmental concerns. She said that utilities--as already seen in some areas of Europe--eventually could use smart meters to turn off appliances in homes denying even those who can afford it the right to use electricity during times of peak demand. Koehle--who was instrumental in getting the Sonoma County Republican Party Central Committee to formally oppose smart meters--sat on the dais next to an empty chair labeled \u201cEdison.\u201d Organizers said Edison agreed to participate on the panel discussion, but then dropped out at the last minute. PG&E, too, has dropped out of community meetings after being set up. Edison spokesperson Charles Coleman acknowledged that the company decided not to participate two days before the forum. He said the Tea Party meeting \u201cwould not have provided the company with an opportunity for a productive discussion with our customers about smart meters.\u201d Edison, he explained, has held separate meetings to discuss the meters with its customers and is planning a forum in Santa Barbara in the near future. Environmental consultant Cindy Sage focused on health concerns related to electromagnetic frequency exposure from smart meters. She said they can cause a variety of health problems ranging from ringing in the ears--a condition known as tinnitus--to heart arrhythmia. Consumer advocates Mark Toney, The Utility Reform Network executive director, and Tyson Slocum, Public Citizen energy program director, raised economic concerns and questioned claims that the meters save energy. Their economic concerns were new to many in the crowded meeting room at the Fess Parker Doubletree Resort, who voiced familiarity with health and privacy concerns. Both Toney and Slocum said the meters so far have saved no energy and come at a high cost to utility customers. California investor-owned utility ratepayers are paying some $5 billion to utilities to install the devices, which eliminate the need for meter readers. Toney said the meters are designed to eventually enable \u201cheat wave pricing\u201d of electricity, in which utilities would charge 10 times more for power on the ten hottest days of the year. The crowd reacted favorably to Toney and Slocum, seeing the information they shared as more grist for the cause against the meters.