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updated: 3/23/2013 7:54 PM

Naperville smart meter case dismissed by federal judge

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A federal judge has dismissed a case by Naperville residents opposed to the city's smart meter program, but the lawsuit is likely far from over.

Members of the opposition group Naperville Smart Meter Awareness have already announced their intent to file an amended complaint.

Doug Ibendahl, the group's attorney, said the judge's decision is a good opportunity for them.

"There's been a lot of additional information that has come out about the smart meters and related issues in the past year," Ibendahl said. "We can incorporate all that now."

The original complaint from December 2011 aimed to halt installation of the meters, which are designed to wirelessly collect data from 57,000 electric customers. City officials are billing the $22 million Smart Grid Initiative a safe upgrade to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers.

Opponents say there are health risks associated with the wireless network as well as privacy and security concerns with the monitoring. "This case is very simple," Ibendahl said. "All my clients are asking is to be allowed to have the same relief, the same option, the same ability, to opt out and refuse a smart meter that customers are getting all over the country."

City Manager Doug Krieger said officials are happy with the outcome of the federal lawsuit.

"The city is very pleased with the dismissal," Krieger said. "We thought that the judge did a great job in discussions as to why the case should have been dismissed."

The smart meter project includes installation at all meter locations but gives people the option of turning off the wireless capability, effectively causing it to function like the meters people already have.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs argued the city violated the law and exposed people to harmful radio waves in requiring the smart meter installation and subjected individuals to unreasonable searches because of how the meters are read.

In his decision, Judge John Lee said because the City of Naperville offered residents the option to turn the wireless capabilities off, they did not force anyone into anything that would compromise their health. He also said that homeowners waived the right to sue over privacy concerns because city employees have been reading the meters manually for years.

Ibendahl said the judge's decision included valuable feedback the group would use before filing again.

Naperville Smart Meter Awareness members are looking for residents who have been overbilled, suffered property damage, had a meter installed against their will or can prove health issues related to the meters to join the lawsuit, according to the group's website.

Plaintiffs have until April 5 to file the amended complaint.

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