Arizona Public Service Co. halts power disconnects after 2018 fatalityJune 14, 2019
Arizona Public Service Co. is halting all power disconnects for at least 30 days following the death of a 72-year-old Sun City West woman whose power was shut off, the electric company said Thursday.
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to this customer’s friends and to her family,” APS Vice President of Customer Service and Chief Customer Officer Stacy Derstine said in a video the utility released regarding the decision.
At least one state utility regulator also is asking for a review of policies regarding when utilities can cut off customers.
APS will suspend disconnections for residential customers who are late on their bills and work with community groups and low-income advocates to review its shut-off policies. Customers still will be responsible for paying for whatever power they use during that time, but won’t be left without electricity in the meantime.
Shortly after the company made the announcement, Phoenix New Times published a story regarding 72-year-old Stephanie Pullman, who died in September after APS shut off her electricity.
A Maricopa County medical examiner’s report on Pullman said she died of heart disease and that heat exposure and diabetes contributed to her fatality.
Derstine said senior management at the utility was only made aware of the fatality Tuesday. Someone contacted APS customer service regarding a fatality on Sept. 18, but it “was not escalated to senior management,” she said.
Records from the Arizona Corporation Commission show that Pullman’s daughter called Sept. 17 and told the company her mother died after the power was cut. On Oct. 1, APS Senior Consumer Advocate Beth McFall also spoke with Pullman’s daughter regarding the billing issues.
Records supplied to the regulators by APS show that Pullman fell behind on her May bill in June 2018, when APS first sent a delinquent notice.
The APS records say the utility twice hung notices on Pullman’s door and three times mailed shut-off notices between June 18 and Sept. 5 before cutting the power Sept. 7. Pullman made multiple partial payments during that time but never caught up on her payments, according to the records.
The day the power was cut was the last time Pullman had contact with her family, according to the medical report. It is unclear exactly when Pullman died. The exam was conducted Sept. 16.
The last bill before her power was cut showed Pullman owed $336. She paid $125 two days before the electricity was shut off, but that was $52 short of her delinquent debt, and far short of her total bill.
Regulators were warned last month
Activist Stacey Champion has tracked heat-related deaths, pushed for consumer protections of utility shut-offs at the state Legislature, and spearheaded a challenge to APS’ rate hike.
Champion has warned regulators of the dangers of APS’ rate increase combined with summer temperatures and the utility’s shut-off policies.
“We’re here because the rates are literally…