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Tue, Oct. 22

Editorial: Cutting off someone’s power should not be left to the weatherman

The Arizona Corporation Commission reviewed a drafted plan earlier this week that would block electric companies from shutting off their customer’s power if forecasted temperatures over the next five days were expected to rise above 105 degrees.

The original proposal set the bar at 95 degrees.

Depending on where someone lives in the quad-city area, a 95-degree day happens frequently in a summer, and it’s common to see several days of consecutive 95-plus weather.

But 105? And on consecutive five-day periods? Likely not.

So that means residents living in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey-Humboldt, much of Yavapai County and the surrounding communities are unlikely to receive relief if this plan holds.

It also means those who live in our neighborhoods having a hard time paying the bill and are sensitive to hotter days in the summer could still have their power shut off by the utility company.

Elijah Abinah, the commission’s utility director, says using the lower number would effectively allow people to skip out on the bill from April to October in Arizona.

John Coffman, an attorney with AARP, said the 95-degree level may mean more days where shutoffs are prohibited than other states like Nevada, which uses a 105-degree limit, “but that doesn’t negate the physiological danger to public health.”

The commission imposed a temporary emergency moratorium on disconnections earlier this year in the wake of the death of a Sun City West woman who died of heat-related injuries. The state’s largest utility, Arizona Public Service, cut her power when the outside temperature was 107 degrees.

The woman had paid only $125 of her $176 bill.

But now, since that moratorium was put in place, APS says it is now owed $30 million.

Diane Brown, executive director for the Arizona Public Interest Research Group, says that if people believe they don’t have to pay their bills for five months of the year, then more will take advantage of the window.

For now, both sides of the issue are questioning how hot is too hot for Arizona residents to have their power shut off.

As they should.

What happens if the next five days shake out like: 105, 105, 106, 107, 104? Are they still going to cut someone’s power off? You bet.

So what’s the solution? Perhaps a different system other than using the temperature should be constructed.

APS already has a program for those who live at or below the poverty line. You can read about the options on their website at https://www.aps.com/en/Utility/Regulatory-and-Legal/Rates-Schedules-and-Adjustors .

Either way, it feels like the ACC and utility companies are running these meetings under the assumption that, one, everyone is trying to rip them off; and two, electricity is not a necessity.

Most Arizona residents need electricity. It’s even one of the first three-to-four things budget-fixers talk about when organizing bills and what should be paid first: food/medicine, housing, utilities and auto.

Right?

The current plan may not work for all Arizona residents, but something must be done to help protect those sensitive to our hottest days of the year and not make them choose between losing their car, eating, medicine or keeping the lights on.

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