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Perspective

Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1996

it won't next year, or even next week. If an unequivocally positive study is released or a personal injury plaintiff wins an EMF trial, the issue will explode anew.

In the interim, utilities should:

s Stay on top of the issue. No matter how quiet it is now, you won't have much time to reacquaint yourself when the next story hits.

s Communicate with customers and employees. One of the most dangerous accusations plaintiffs can make is that the utility withheld information. You don't want to get caught in a communications blackout when the next story hits the front page.

s Finance research. The EMF RAPID Program has not been able to live up to the spirit of its authorizing legislation, in part because non-Federal sources failed to pony up 50 percent of the cost. Utilities are doing their part through the Edison Electric Institute and the Electric Power Research Institute, but the industry should not open itself up to charges that it nickel-and-dimed the program.

s Fight disinformation. EMF activists are trying to get the media interested in the issue again. For example, they are promoting the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) draft study on EMF, leaked this summer by a member of the NCRP panel that produced it. The draft report is already big news in England and Australia; don't let that happen here. If your local paper publishes an inaccurate story, call the reporter and write a letter to the editor.

The changing nature of the media, combined with an onslaught of negative news, has driven EMF off the front pages and, undoubtedly, out of the minds of many reporters. From a utility perspective, this lack of news is certainly good news. But it is definitely not the time to declare victory (em just an opportunity to catch your breath before the debate breaks out again. t

Leonard S. Greenberger is manager of energy/environmental projects at Potomac Communications Group, Inc. in Washington, DC, where he serves as editor of Edison Electric Institute's EMF News. He worked as associate editor for PUBLIC UTILITIES FORTNIGHTLY from April 1991 through August 1992. The opinions presented here are his own.

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