Deborah Cooney is convinced electric meters made her sick and destroyed her music business.
  • Deborah Cooney is convinced electric meters made her sick and destroyed her music business.

“I’m homeless. I sleep in a cabin with no electricity,” Deborah Cooney says by telephone from West Virginia. “It’s really cold. I have a little propane heater. But I feel much better without all the wiring around me.” By wiring, she is referring to a network of “smart meters” that San Diego Gas and Electric installed throughout her Clairemont neighborhood. She is convinced now that those meters are the cause of her present health issues.

“I could feel it when I walked in my house...a buzz of radiation around me. One step outside, and I began to feel better.” A smart meter transmits two-way wireless communication between the home and a central system. SDG&E began to exchange analog meters for such devices in 2008. Health concerns stem from the radio-frequency radiation that they emit.

It began in April 2011 when Cooney noticed a sudden and loud ringing in her ears. The San Diego piano-and-voice teacher’s symptoms came to include chest pain, tingling in her limbs, and nausea. Her cat got sick. So did her boyfriend who lived with her. At Cooney’s request, SDG&E removed the smart meter from her home. The boyfriend recovered, but the cat died. And Cooney’s symptoms persisted, albeit undiagnosed by conventional medicine. “I don’t go to Western [doctors].” She says she prefers natural healing methods.

That summer, Cooney moved to a wilderness area in Virginia called the National Radio Quiet Zone. The region was designated by the U.S. Navy and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory to, as they state, “minimize possible harmful interference.” In December 2012, Cooney took it a step further when she filed a lawsuit in San Francisco federal court.

“I am the first person to file a personal-injury suit [stemming from smart-meter harm] in federal court. I don’t know of anybody else,” says Cooney.

Named in the suit are San Diego Gas and Electric, the California Public Utilities Commission, state attorney general Kamala Harris, and Itron, a manufacturer of smart meters. What Cooney ultimately wants is a nationwide ban on the wireless meters. “There was no proper testing on them prior to installation,” she says. She also seeks $120 million in compensatory damages. “My music business has been destroyed,” she says.

Cooney, 50, speaks in bright and articulate torrents. A pianist and a singer by trade, she also goes by the name Celeste. She gigs presently at the Greenbrier, a club near her West Virginia home. But in years past, she worked the cruise-ship circuit and swank San Diego venues, such as the Bahia, the Catamaran, and the Hotel La Jolla.

“I’m still paying rent on my home in San Diego. My boyfriend lives there. Half of my things are there.” At present, she is waiting for a trial date to be scheduled. She says she would like to come back home, but first things first. “I’ve pretty much lost everything. I’ve lost my health, my cat, my home, my boyfriend, my money, and my business. I have nothing left to lose. I might as well fight to get some of it back.”

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Jay Allen Sanford Jan. 24, 2013 @ 12:55 p.m.

If SDG&E's "smart meters" really made her sick and that gets proven in court, this will be a very important case for many San Diegans -


celestecan July 9, 2013 @ 1:14 p.m.

Dear Jay Allen Sanford,

Thank you for your astute remarks.

This is indeed a very important case for many San Diegans. That is why Dave Good interviewed me about it and the Reader published the story. It is a very important case for all people everywhere in the world, because everyone's health and safety hangs in the balance.

The Smart Grid seriously injured me, and I recovered by removing myself from it. When I am re-exposed it, I suffer similar injuries again. These facts are indisputable.

The Smart Grid was installed in violation of over 20 federal statutes and over 20 state statutes. People can read more about the legal issues in my 49-page Verified Complaint.


qpodad Jan. 24, 2013 @ 2:13 p.m.

I don't believe this woman. How on earth would a "smart meter" cause her to become ill suddenly when she has been living in a dense metro area with thousands of sources of electromagnetic radiation bathing all of us at much higher energy densities than a smart meter? I am NOT saying that she doesn't truly believe that she is right (i.e. she may or may not be knowingly bringing a false civil action) but rather that she is devoid of common sense and scientific/medical understanding of EM radiation and human health. Also, she does not "go to Western doctors", which is going make it impossible to prove her case for $120 million in damages. Basically she comes across as a new-age nut who's lost her grip on reality. I would expect a very brief lifespan for this case.


celestecan July 9, 2013 @ 12:52 p.m.

Dear qpodad,

Thank you for your avid interest in this issue.

Perhaps you should read the 49-page Verified Complaint before commenting. That way you will be able to add something more thoughtful and meaningful to the conversation.

I have cited the research of 50-100 doctors, some board-certified medical doctors, and others scientific research doctors. The case relies on their findings, not on my personal understanding of radio frequencies and human health.

The Complaint does not allege any sudden illness, as you have erroneously concluded. The facts of the case are supported by evidence showing that I was repeatedly injured by radiation over the one-year time span between the date the Smart Meters were installed on my home (July 2010) and the date that I was forced to leave my home to recover from the ongoing radiation injuries (August 2011). The injuries were caused not only by the Smart Meters on my home, but also by the Smart Grid equipment around my home, including a bank of over 100 Smart Meters on the apartment building in back of my home.


celestecan July 9, 2013 @ 12:32 p.m.

Dear Dave,

Thank you for publishing something about this very important health issue.

Whether or not I am "convinced" that Smart Meters are causing harm is not important. The important issue is whether or not Smart Meters are actually causing harm. A responsible journalist would investigate that a bit further. The investigation would begin with reading the scientific evidence proffered in the Verified Complaint.

In any case, there are some errors that should be corrected:

  1. You falsely state "Cooney's symptoms persisted..." This is categorically untrue. I am in perfect health, as I clearly stated in the interview. When I am not exposed to radiation, I feel great. When I am exposed to radiation, I can feel the radiation around me and I suffer re-injury. I use natural healing methods to maintain my health. In natural healing practice, we first determine the cause of the disease, injury, or imbalance, and then remove the cause. I successfully employed this practice when I healed myself from heart attack, stroke, and other symptoms caused by radiation injury, by removing the cause, or in this case, removing myself from the harmful radiation.

  2. My boyfriend has not completely recovered, although he is feeling better now that the Smart Meter has been replaced with a safe analog meter. He is still under treatment for a heart condition, which did not exist before the Smart Grid installation.

  3. The National Radio Quiet Zone is a 13,000 mile area around Green Bank, West Virginia, mandated by an Act of Congress and enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Green Bank is also protected by a WV state law covering a 10-mile radius around the Green Bank Radio Telescope.

  4. I did not move to Virginia. I did not move to West Virginia. I still live in San Diego. I stayed in WV for a while to reduce my radiation exposure. I recovered immediately, proving that my injuries were indeed caused by radiation.

  5. The Greenbrier is not a local club and it is not that close to Green Bank (about 60 miles). The Greenbrier is a large, historic, luxury resort that hosts the Greenbrier Classic, a national PGA golf tournament with Tiger Woods competing, and Kenny Chesney and Aerosmith performing.

  6. The lawsuit calls for an injunction against the California Smart Grid. I have standing to ask for this as a resident of California. After the Court grants the injunction, the Smart Grids in other states will be legally challenged under some of the same federal laws that apply to my case. The Federal Courts will have to order them to be dismantled as well, under the same legal theories, although residents of other states may have to file separate legal actions to accomplish this.

  7. The damages will be reduced from $120 million to $20 million by the Court granting the injunction.

Thanks, Deborah Cooney


SurfPuppy619 July 9, 2013 @ 2:22 p.m.

Deborah Cooney, can you post a copy of your verified complaint??? Are you represented by counsel, or are you Pro Se?????


AndrewW Jan. 7, 2014 @ 1:42 p.m.

Hey, Deborah. My name is Andrew. I work for the National Geographic Channel. We're trying to do a story about people who live in WV and suffer from electromagnetic sensitivity. Right now, we're just talking to a bunch of people, trying to get a better understanding of what it's like to live with the condition. I'd love to talk if you're interested.


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