PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s largest electric utility announced Thursday it will temporarily stop disconnecting residential customers who are behind on their payments while it reviews its policies in the wake of a customer death.
Arizona Public Service Co. said the decision was made after reports that a customer died last year while power was disconnected. Comments at recent meetings of its main regulator and the onset of summer heat also led to the decision.
The company’s action came on the same day that the Phoenix New Times published a report about the death of a 72-year-old Sun City West woman whose electricity was cut off in September because she failed to pay a bill for $176.84.
The New Times noted APS records obtained by the woman’s daughter showed she paid $125 about a week after getting a disconnect notice, but the utility commonly known as APS still turned off her power. The temperature that week was well above 100 degrees in metro Phoenix.
“Our hearts go out to the family of the customer,” APS said in a statement. “The safety of our fellow Arizonans is our top priority. We want all our customers to stay connected, especially during the summer.”
APS Vice President Stacy Derstine said the company will review its disconnection policies over the next month and may extend the moratorium on disconnections. It intends to consult with advocates for low-income customers, community organizations and public agencies to find out how best to allow customers to keep their power on. The goal is not just to craft new policies for APS but to create a statewide effort on dangerous weather and utility disconnections.
“We want to do what’s right — if there are processes, things that we can do to better serve our customers, we’re there,” Derstine said.