In New Hampshire, the big power companies had the regulator in their pockets for a long time. Not any more.
National Grid said this week it followed proper procedures when it shut off the power of a Salem woman who depended on an oxygen machine to breathe. That woman, Kay Phaneuf, died Thursday night. And those procedures that National Grid is so proud of, they may have been watered down after industry lobbying of the state regulators. Now the Governor of New Hampshire is finally forcing the Utilites to act.
Phaneuf’s home had been flagged as one whose power could not be shut off due to medical reasons, but National Grid said her family had let that status run out a few months ago. Earlier this week, they shut off the power reportedly due to a delinquent bill.But there was no warning on the day and no neighbor was informed.
Under New Hampshire state law, anyone under that do-not-shut-off list must renew that status every 60 days. And the utility companies allegedly lobbied for that relaxation in the rules.
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch sent a rebuke to the chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, Thomas Getz, ordering an “immediate review of the circumstances” and “an assessment of the adequacy of policies and safeguards related to power shut-offs, and a determination of whether those policies are being rigorously adhered to by New Hampshire’s utility companies.”
Phaneuf, 53, relied on an oxygen machine. Her husband returned home to find his wife in cardiac arrest, just an hour after the power was disconnected. She was taken to a local hospital, where she died Thursday night.
National Grid said a meter technician knocked on the door Monday morning, but no one answered. The couple’s home had been on a do-not-shut-off list periodically, but the utility said that status was never renewed in the spring.
National Grid this morning extended its sympathy to the family of the victim.
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