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Well color me surprised. A Houston home owner prevented an electric utility worker from installing a so-called “smart meter” by force of arms — and didn’t get arrested. WTF?

I get it. No trespassing means no trespassing. A woman’s home is her castle. Damn straight. But it’s been my understanding that utility workers can gain access to your property without permission. Here’s the statement about access to private property from Oncor, which provides electricity to 402 cities across 91 counties, making up nearly one-third of The Lone Star State’s geographic area:

Oncor’s Tariff for Retail Delivery Service section 5.4.8 from the Public Utility Commission of Texas (see page 55 of the PUCT Tariff) provides us the right to access, service and maintain our equipment. Oncor is authorized to access property as part of our responsibility for providing safe, efficient delivery of electric service. Oncor’s duly authorized representatives have the right to access your property for the purpose of restoring service; to inspect, erect, install, maintain, upgrade, convert, remove or replace wiring; read the meter and to perform other activities necessary to provide service. Oncor will come on your property only when it is necessary.

So, it seems the electric company is well within its rights to enter a Houston home owner’s property without permission. Which would make Thelma Tarmina’s [sp.?] armed defense illegal. And doubly illegal, given that she pmost probably wasn’t facing a lethal threat.

Anyway, do you think Ms. Tarmina was within her rights to use her firearm to chase off the utility worker? Would you do the same?

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  1. Okay lady, you don’t want a new meter. We don’t want to provide you with electricity. Problem solved.

    • Good point- after all, it isn’t in fact HER meter, it is THEIR meter. She is just borrowing it for the duration of their business dealings.

    • Except the part where they are a public utility and necessary to function as part of our society. Utility service providers are a “Natural Monopoly” due to the high cost associated with distributing the service. As such we protect these “Natural Monopolies” in exchange for their adherence to strict controls and legal guidelines. It’s why we don’t let companies shut the gas off in the winter.

      I would also bet that those workers are only allowed access to the property in emergency situations to restore power, and in non emergency situations I would bet they are required to obtain permission to enter someone’s property.

      • No, utility workers can service meters whenever they damn well please without notice or permission.

        • The utility can enter my property any time they damn well want? Really?

          At 2 AM?

          Without notice? When there’s no emergency?

          Are you nuts? Wait, let me rephrase: You’re nuts.

        • 90# German Shepard and SEVERAL no Trespassing signs says, AH! NO! Identify yourself and then I will LET you in. A FEW beware of dog he bites helps the scenario.

      • “Due to organizational restructuring, we are no longer able to service traditional electric meters. Her refusal to accept our new meter means we can no longer determine her usage or bill her properly. To avoid incorrectly charging her we have no choice but to terminate her service until we are able to place a new meter at her home.”

        No court on planet earth would rule against that.

        • In Virginia, Smartmeter opponents were given the option to pay an additional fee to have their old meter manually read.

        • “Due to organizational restructuring, we are no longer able to service traditional electric meters.”

          This is, of course, bureaucratic twaddle. So called “smart” meters are specifically designed to give municipal utilities the ability to arbitrarily ration electric usage during periods of high demand (like when it’s really, really hot).

          Smart meters began appearing in concert with the Obama’s EPA’s move to intentionally reduce electrical generating capacity by banning coal-powered generating plants. Environmentalists think air-conditioner usage is an unsustainable luxury that is only affordable in affluent nations, the usage of which places an unfair burden on third world countries. A good alternative to smart meters is a digital electric meter that broadcasts its usage but doesn’t give the local utility the ability to ration usage. Think Agenda 21.

      • The utility companies own the meter, so they can access it whenever they want. Some places you have to ensure they can access the meter at anytime.

        I had one try to charge me an inconvenience fee because the utility worker had “difficulty gaining access through the locked gate.” I sent them a picture of complex carabiner on the gate that foiled the workers attempted access, fee was politely dropped

        • I had a gas company try to charge me 3 months of gas for a house I moved out of because they claim they could not turn the gas off when I requested it. Their excuse? The gate was blocked. Not locked, blocked. I told them that a) I requested a disconnect, b) I was no longer in that house or even in that state, and c) was never informed that they did not disconnect the gas, and that if they sent me 1 more bill they were getting sued. Never heard from them again.

        • The library owns the book I’ve borrowed- should they be able to walk in my front door if they decide it needs a new rebinding?

        • No, not true at all. They have restrictions as to when they can access your meter. Unless there is an emergency, they have to access your meter during the hours they are allowed.

          They want to put one of these abominations in my home and will charge me an extra $25.00 per month to read it once every 3 months if I refuse the “smart” meter.

      • Having a utility company truck pull up in front of your place usually means they need to be there. If living in a rural setting and the power goes out I bet you will drive around to see where they are working. Out here the repair crews are well fed during repairs after a big storm.

    • “We don’t want to provide you with electricity. Problem solved.”

      Do you know how they cut off your service? They pull your meter. Sure, there are other ways to do it, but they are more time-consuming and might involve shutting off other customers in the process.

      I understand both side of the whole “smart meter” uproar. They haven’t shoved one down my throat. Yet. But the day will come when the only choice we have is a smart meter or generate our own power.

      • I don’t see Alabama Power forcing us to switch to smart-meters anytime soon, and their technicians who get sent into these parts know better than to show up unannounced. I’ve talked to our reader and a bunch of linemen (our hamlet’s power cuts on the regular every time the kudzu gets soaked); they are completely respectful of No Trespassing signs, even though they can technically access property. And for a few customers, they start honking their horn as soon as they turn into the “driveway”. New guys are taught ASAP how not to get full up with buckshot and thrown off in a deep hole (very deep, and there’s a lot of them).

        In any case, we’re not waiting to be given that choice. It ain’t really a choice, anyhow….. totally rhetorical.

        We got wind, running water, and the sunny side of our valley. I’m also looking into hydrothermal, the tech has gotten cheaper & more efficient; it’s just the cost of installation that makes my bank card start sweating.

      • I don’t have a smart meter, but I won’t mind one. If they can install it, I can remove it and install a jumper if rationing occurs and I so choose. Most of the controls in place in a civil society are ‘soft’ and only work on those who at least tacitly go along or on those who lack the resources and imagination to bypass them. Think about most of the ‘security’ you’ve seen, and how easily bypassed it is.
        That said, running off utility workers with arms seams like the armed robbery of bypassing the controls. What I’m suggesting is more like identity theft: quiet, effective, often some combination of undetected, unreported, uninvestigated or unprovable….and no violence required.

        • In virtually all jurisdictions, bypassing an electric meter will get you thrown in jail, or at a minimum, fined. It is considered stealing electricity because there is no way to record how much you use.

    • The problem is many states won’t even let you “go off the grid” even if you want to. It’s flat out illegal to not have connection to an electrical grid. That’s the case here in Florida.

  2. Ok. That’s just silly.

    1. The electric company really should give notice of things like this. (It’s not like their gear can’t be stolen.)

    2. How much electricity are you burning that you care enough to do this?

    • If you’re going to have a grow-house in your basement, either don’t complain about the electric bill, or steal your neighbor’s watts.

    • They do send notice of the upcoming work like this especially when it is not an emergency and will require a temporary interruption of service. I received three notices when they put the new meter in at my old house.

  3. It sure sounds like an overreaction; but maybe we aren’t getting the whole story? Any time the response seems this disproportionate, I always wonder, “what would everyone involved say happened?” My guess: rarely what the news reports.

    That being said, if this woman REALLY just chased off a utility worker with a gun, that is not pragmatic in my mind. There are more subtle ways to fight a smart meter (a fight I would support, FWIW) than potentially committing a felony and getting yourself in a heap of trouble.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t let the guy on my property (“authorization” or not) but I would go about it differently. Call the police, right away- go on record as being the aggrieved party, for one. Then, tell the guy you don’t want the meter, and won’t consent to it. He won’t care, but you are checking off boxes so you don’t look like a lunatic later, when someone who isn’t involved (judge, jury, whatever) is reviewing this.

    I live in Illinois- they may dust off the gallows here, for interfering with a utility worker! Probably a UNIONIZED worker! My family would be fed my remains for that, here…

  4. I’m going with her on this one. They lied to us here in Nevada about the costs of the meters. They got a grant from the Feds for a portion, and told us the balance of the costs would be picked up by savings for not needing so many meter readers and the savings on gasoline and vehicle care. They put in for a rate increase “to cover the cost of the new meters”.

    • They were gonna raise your rates no matter what. The meters was just a convenient excuse.

    • But the value/justification of the smart meter isn’t really the point here, is it? I doubt you will find many (any?) people willing to defend the smart meters- it is using a gun to prevent its installation that is the issue, no?

      • What’s the deal with these smart meters anyway? When I left the gas company for the police academy (active duty infantry to desk job babysitting whiny union workers was a no-go), they were talking about some kind of smart meter for the natural gas utility service too. But I don’t know anything about them or why someone would not want one installed.

        • Smart meters can differentiate between lighting loads, resistive loads, motor loads. They can monitor what time you get up in the morning by when you turn your lights on. When you finish your shower by sensing the electrical signature of an electric hair dryer. Whether your house is occupied during the day and when you get home at night. When you cook dinner. Et cetera. Many newer appliances can communicate with the smart meter directly. Its a great new way to spy on everyone, and use or sell the data they gain on every electric customer. That’s why they don’t take no for an answer. Most utilities don’t give you the option to pay more to keep your old one unless they are required to by law.

          The fact that they have substantial electromagnetic emissions to create a wireless network to communicate the data, that their network can be hacked, and that there are a number of cases of the meters starting fires are all reasons why many people don’t want them. This is the gateway technology required to be able to have the utilities set your thermostat for you against your desires, more easily do rolling blackouts, and other big brother crap. Google is your friend if you want to learn more, even though the utilities are trying hard to squash negative stories about them.

          • Thanks, I’ll check it out on DuckDuckGo. Can’t have Google knowing I’m trying to circumvent Big Brother stuff, after all.

            And I kind of figured it would be something along those lines. Your description immediately got my hackles up.

        • Implied but not stated in my previous comment is that the smart meters report back in virtual real time versus the old system that only recorded the usage once a month.

        • A ‘Smart Meter’ means they can fire the meter readers.

          The same way when fast food workers get a ‘living wage’, the restaurants install self-serve soda machines and fire a kid…

        • Utilities plan to use smart meters to maximize profits during high demand by shutting down circuits or appliances of low paying accounts and maintaining full service to priority accounts. This as opposed to general brown outs. Secondly, they can charge you a premium for usage during peak demand. Lastly it will eliminate manual reading.
          Have a nice day!

        • What Renner said plus their em ratings are worse than cell towers from what I read and saw on videos. One video showed that it was higher than the emissions from right next to a cell tower. In fact it was off the scale. Think of it as a cell tower on crack and speed.

  5. This woman shouldn’t have to be forced to get a Smart Meter. This is another form of control – this time by the by the electric company. You want control taken over your lives, then go register your guns with the local authorities. Until then, let this woman alone.

    • She isn’t forced to buy electricity. If she wants to make it on her own, or if she can buy from another provider, she has every right to do so. If she wants to buy from that particular company, then she certainly has to follow their rules.

      • She may have a choice of electrical suppliers, but she has no choice in distribution systems. That’s a monopoly.

        The ability of the utility to enter onto private property depends on the easement and the laws, rules or codes that apply, and every jurisdiction is different.

        In some jurisdictions, private property can be entered and the meter can be read during “normal” hours. Emergency work can be done at any time. Non-emergency, non-meter reading work often requires 24 hour notice.

        In this case, based only on the language quoted in the post (which may be incomplete), she makes a decent case for trespass.

        Her reaction was overwrought. But in odd cases when an entry is done outside of normal hours and without notice, a homeowner might have no way of knowing whether the “meter reader” is for real or a burglar with coveralls. In such cases, the owner would be wise to prohibit entry and call the electric company.

      • Actually many states have laws that you must be attached to the grid, and punish you if you try to make electricity on your own.

  6. I have no idea if the lady is telling the truth about the guy putting his hands on her and honestly I don’t get the whole anti-smart meter thing but I know that some people are very, very dead set against such meters.

    • Some consider it a privacy issue (when and how much juice you use), and some aren’t interested in more RFI with another digital device howling away polluting the ether.

      Had a power outage awhile back that darkened my end of town. Went out in the back yard with a rather high-performance AM radio and scanned the band. I was blown away with how much more I could hear in real electric noise quiet…

      • That’s pretty cool actually. I’d try it but my town has shockingly good electrical distribution for being as small as it is.

        I’ll have to put a note on my monitor about that in case we do have an outage. My first instinct would be to grab the telescope when there’s no light pollution.

        • What was neat were all the little small-town AM stations on nighttime low power fading in and out, more like as one faded, another popped up, sometimes 3 or more different radio stations on the same frequency, as the ionosphere warped and bent. The blowtorch nation-wide clear channel stations (not the media company, ‘Clear Channel’, clear channel as in they were the only ones authorized for their frequency) had fade, but their non-nighttime neutered high power kept them pretty much audible even in the nulls.

          Take the radio out with the telescope!

  7. If she’d have read the fine print when she started her electric service, she’d have known this was coming. And yes, irresponsible gun owner of the day.

  8. “Oncor’s duly authorized representatives have the right to access your property for the purpose of restoring service; to inspect, erect, install, maintain, upgrade, convert, remove or replace wiring; read the meter and to perform other activities necessary to provide service.”

    None of the reasons for entry cited above cover the installation of a so-called “Smart Meter.” It’s a meter, not wiring, nobody claimed that the old meter was defective and neither did anyone claim that the new meter was necessary to provide or restore service (AFAIK, the homeowner already had service).

    Next time, electric utility man, make an appointment.

    And you, aggrieved lady, put your gun away. You could knock somebody’s eye out.

  9. I mean going out there with a gun to investigate is one thing. But youd have to be a crazy person to pull a gun on a meter man once youve seen credentials and it is obvious he isnt a criminal and is only doing his job. People like this give the gun grabbers ammo. But only in 10 rd clips

  10. Castle Doctrine should extend to your property line.

    That simple change would solve a whole lot of problems.

    • “Castle Doctrine should extend to your property line.”

      If the meter was sheltered under the roof eve (sp?) it would in some areas.

      An old guy shot dead a 15 yo car burglar here years back. It was ruled the car was under a carport attached to the home, so castle doctrine applied…

  11. Reads like a lot of you didn’t even watch the video. She insists the guy just deebo’d his way onto her property and was going to replace that meter regardless of hell or high water. When somebody tells you to get off their property, you get off their property!

  12. Utility workers can be pretty obnoxious & pushy. I used to own a triplex. One day a gas company a-hole banged on my door and tried to shove his way past me to get inside when I answered the door. Never once looked me in the eye either.

    He said he would shut off my gas if I didn’t comply. After a lot of back & forth I was finally able to make this fascist idiot understand that a) I was the owner of the property and I expected him to treat me AND my tenants with courtesy, b) demanded he show me his ID so I could write down his name and badge number, c) demanded to know WHY he was trying to illegally enter my home.

    He told me that my chimney wasnt up to code. I pointed out to him that there was a chimney pipe sticking out the top of the brick chimney – eliminating his bullshit excuse to barge inside – and that it was his own gas company that had sold & installed my home’s gas heater! He wasn’t very apologetic so I figured this guy needs a wake-up call and made sure to file lots of complaints.

    I got three month’s of free gas after I had filed a complaint with his employer, the State AG’s office and board of public utilities.

      • Once during a get together a drunken volunteer firefighter showed up, knocked and barged in. No amount of reasoning would deter him ‘does it look like this house is on fire you idiot?’
        We carried him out, wrapped in a blanket and extention cord and sat on him until his firecompany could retrieve him. Given that we were nearly as well lubricated as he was, we saw no need for police.
        We had fun making up jokes while we waited for his ride ‘somewhere a fire company is missing it’s idiot.’
        However, what was howling good fun for a small gang of healthy, somewhat drunken young men might have been damn scary or even dangerous for a family or someone else.

  13. Is it right to defend your electric meter with a firearm? No.

    (a) Pointing a firearm at someone is applying deadly force even if you do not pull the trigger.
    (b) We are only legally justified to use deadly force when an ATTACKER presents a credible, imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death.
    (c) An electric utility worker who is trying to change your electric meter is NOT a credible, imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death.

    More commentary:
    The electric utility must have terms of service that grants them access to a customer’s property. This is necessary since a defect on one customer’s property can radically degrade the service quality to other customers. Furthermore, a defect could present a HUGE DEADLY HAZARD to the community. That reason alone must guarantee that an electric utility is guaranteed access at least for hazardous emergencies. Whether or not their terms of service provide access for maintenance which does not degrade service or create a deadly hazard, I have no idea.

    • (b) We are only legally justified to use deadly force when an ATTACKER presents a credible, imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death.

      That almost certainly depends on where the incident occurs (e.g. public property, front yard, inside a residence) and jurisdiction.

      For example, in my state (CO), there’s no need for a “credible, imminent threat of grievous bodily harm or death”. In my home, there are three criteria:
      1. Unlawful entry into the dwelling,
      2. I reasonably believe that the intruder has committed, is committing, or intends to commit a crime against a person or property, in addition to the unlawful entry, and
      3. I reasonably believe that the intruder might use any physical force, no matter how slight, against any occupant.

      Colorado Revised Statutes 18-1-704.5 (2).

  14. The old style meters (pictured above) are outside the house so they can be read. Some of the new meters are inside the house and picked up wirelessly from the street. This prevents exposure to elements and makes them easier to service during inclement weather.

    Meter readers used to go to each meter and read it. These “readers” used to make really good money as union workers. With wireless meters, one man or woman can cruise down your street and get your reading without stepping foot out of the car. It saves the electricity providers millions.

    A stipulation to have power/water should not be access to your home by any entity. I can understand new construction for purpose of code enforcement, but not upgrades. We had a similar situation with our water meter. We were told to allow access or water would be shut off.

    This article is devoid of facts needed to articulate its point.

  15. not sure what good union money is, but i left the machining world for a 15 dollar an hour pay cut because kids/ benefits. nine years meeting dogs in the back yard/ their territory. fences to hop, breaking and entering (get that meter!), crazy homeowners (people are awfully sensitive about their stuff), coyotes, redwing blackbirds, wasps and hornets, all while it’s one degree, 99 degrees or 38 and raining, no weather clause.
    in illinois i pay a little more than twenty a month not to have a shmot meter. partly because stubborn, but mostly because the one thing they don’t mention when listing all the benefits (mostly for them: more precise locating of outages) is that they can shut you off remotely without having to pull your meter.
    it is a felony in illinois to assault an (a?) utility worker.

  16. The utility worker should have respected her craziness and left the area. Technically the meter belongs to the electric company, but he can just as easily leave and perform the necessary legal proceedings to obtain their meter back and turn off their power upstream if need be. Utility worker shouldn’t be in her back yard slapping each other’s hands over the situation. The electric company took the the highest road however. Despite her craziness, they let her keep her old meter, they let her keep her service, and they kept their customer. Win-win-win.

  17. Contracts do not nullify criminal law. Once you are told to get off someone’s property, regardless of contractual obligation (note: excluding rental obligations or exigency- firemen, etc), get off the property so you’re not committing wanton trespassing. Then turn off her electricity if needed.

  18. I don’t really know what the woman’s beef was and it’s not well covered by the report.

    But I live in the Houston area and our neighborhood’s meters were replaced some years back with lots of complaints. Essentially, the installation of a new meter damaged the connections on the meter (which was working just fine) and we had to pay an electrician more than $500 to fix it.

    It happened to lots of us and we were up in arms about it.

  19. A meter reader pulled into our driveway at a very fast speed (or, too fast for my husband) while our then very young children were riding tricycles closer to the garage. No gun, or violence, but, my husband really ripped into him. Verbal Assault? No charges filed.

    The strip of property between our driveway, the neighbor’s property, on up to the fence and into the backyard is a utility easement. That’s where the meter is. But, the driveway is our property. We realize that these employees have a job to do, in a short amount of time, but they need to be more careful. Or, risk the consequences of their actions.

  20. Well, she didn’t shoot. That, she’d probably have been arrested for. But I don’t think threatening a trespasser with a gun is illegal in Texas.
    As for whether the utility worker was in his right, I don’t think he was. Having the right to access someone’s property doesn’t mean you can just trespass should they refuse to let you in – you’d have to sue them first and get a judgment that says they have to let you in.

  21. Who gets to decide what is necessary ? If the old meter was working then “necessary” is questionable.

  22. If she’s in or around Houston (as the story suggests) then her electricity service is maintained by Centerpoint Energy. …So, Oncor service agreement is irrelevant.

  23. Of course not. Because if she was within her rights to point her gun at him to stop him from working then the next logical step would be to claim that she also has the right to summarily execute him if he doesn’t stop working on the meter.

  24. Pennsylvania passed a law in 2008 requiring old meters to be replaced with smart meters within 15 years. There are no exceptions permitted in the law.

  25. Walk uninvited and un-announced inside my property and you will also get a gun pointed at you. Introduce and identify yourself as an electricity company worker, you may get a coffee or some ice tea.

    She did right. Just to remind all the folks here a few months ago another Centerpoint employee walked announced inside someone’s house and was greeted by dogs, claimed he was fearing the dogs were going to attack him and hit and killed one of the dogs with a steel bar he pulled out of his ass.

  26. If there is a stranger on my property doing things with my electricity i would be suspicious too. Could be a burglar or even worse a psychopath shutting down your power to attack you afterwards. So yes, if there is somebody on your property, get your gun, get him on the ground and demand identification. A power company outfit doesn’t make you a power company worker, every semi-decent criminal would put on such a uniform before doing bad things to your power. So you should then get his id and verify by calling the power company.
    They should’ve made a appointmnet in the first place. You can’t just run on people’s proptery and claim that you are allowed to do so. At least ring their bell and inform them that you are now working on their property.
    If some strange guy in working clothes is im my garden right next to the toddler he will be dead before he could say the words electric utility worker. It is really that easy.

  27. Is the woman sensitive to the level of em radiation that these smart meters emit? If so forcing her to have the meter would likely be criminal.

  28. Based on the events described in the video not only was the utility worker trespassing he also commiting assault and battery against her just prior to her getting her gun.

  29. “And doubly illegal, given that she pmost [sic] probably wasn’t facing a lethal threat.”

    I can kill you for committing a Class C misdemeanor at night. (Criminal mischief). Admittedly, I’d be a terrible person if I did. The point is that the threat of deadly force or grievous bodily harm is not needed for the justified use of deadly force in Texas. Not even close.

    Under the common law, the threat of force is often justified even when the use of force is not. An example from my torts class way back when was that you can threaten to shoot someone who is trespassing, but deadly force is not actually justified.

    Displaying a firearm isn’t the threat of deadly force or grievous bodily harm. If it was, open carry would be assault.

    Pointing a gun at someone is not deadly force. It is the threat of deadly force. You can tell by the not being dead thing after someone points a gun at someone but doesn’t pull the trigger. Like in the quote of the day about the mom who pointed the gun at a burglar’s face and asked if she could help him.

    But to answer the questions of the day, no and no. Now if the meter had been hers, and the incident occurred at night, then she would definitely have been within her rights.

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