Pacific Gas & Electric proposed giving its residential customers the option to have the radios in their smart meters turned off, according to a press statement regarding a filing with the California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday. The full proposal has not been posted online yet, but the first pieces of information suggest another showdown is coming.

The proposal is subject to approval by the CPUC, but if it goes through, PG&E said it would try to make the opt-out quickly available to customers. The proposal is sure to make smart meter opponents even angrier, however, as it calls for customers to pay “reasonable” fees to cover the cost of turning off the radio, continued manual meter readings and extra call center volume, according to a press release. The costs could reportedly be as much as $20 extra per month.

The option comes on the heels of public outcry and California and some other areas of the country that the electromagnetic fields emitted from the smart meters cause a range of health problems, which prompted the CPUC to have PG&E file an opt-out clause.

Studies by California Council on Science and Technology and other scientific bodies have found no connection between EMF and health risks. At the San Francisco Chronicle, David Baker reported that SMUD, a utility in Sacramento, gets a spike in complaints when there are news reports about PG&E's smart meters.

In Michigan, when one elderly woman complained of health problems from her meter, the utility set up an analog and digital meter and switched between the two and had her note all of her health issues, according to Orijakor Isiogu, Chairman of Michigan Public Service Commission. After a few weeks, there was no correlation between the radio signal being turned on and her ailments. She didn’t file any more complaints.

For utilities like PG&E, this very vocal minority should be given an option to opt out. However, the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund suggested those who don’t want a smart meter should still get some of the benefits. “The utility must ensure that the alternative option retains the full functionality of its smart meter and gives consumers a way to control their energy use and costs and ultimately benefit from cleaner air,” the organization said in a statement.

For people who probably do not carry smart phones or use Wi-Fi in the house due to EMF concerns, they are already comfortable with not having some of the same technological advantages as others because they feel it affects their health. Without valid scientific proof of health effects, perhaps people who opt out will simply relinquish the ability to take advantage of any smart meter benefits offered by the utility.

But for now, the proposal has not been approved, and a fight is certainly looming. Earlier today, angry residents packed the CPUC’s commission auditorium, according to a local ABC report, to ask for a full moratorium on smart meters.

"I did not go through life eating organic food and exercising so I will be able to enjoy old age, just to have some big corporation slap something on the side of my home and undo all of it," Petaluma resident Sylvia Binsfeld said, according to ABC News. There is no scientific evidence that electromagnetic fields reverse the benefits of physical exercise (or an organic diet), so Binsfeld shouldn’t be losing muscle mass while she waits for her smart meter to be turned off.

But science aside, PG&E is stuck in an endless public relations nightmare. And it honestly does not matter what the science has found, as it clearly has little effect on those who truly believe smart meters are evil. This is not a technology issue but an issue of the hearts and minds of its customers (in fairness, utilities aren't used to dealing with winning hearts and minds). While extra truck rolls and call center inquiries surely cost more, the utility needs to weigh the continuing cost of consumer dissatisfaction against the cost of dealing with the handful of folks who will actually go through with opting out of the radio signal. It's possible that no matter what the CPUC's final decision may be, no one will be happy.