Regulators OK summer Arizona power shut-off ban

PHOENIX (FOX 10/AP) - State regulators have enacted emergency rules barring most Arizona electric utilities from disconnecting power to customers who are late on their bills from June 1 through Oct 15.

Thursday's action by Arizona Corporation Commission comes less than a week after it became known that a 72-year-old Sun City West woman died after her power was disconnected last September. The emergency rules take effect immediately and last six months while regulators develop final rules on shutoffs in hot weather.

Arizona Public Service disconnected Stephanie Pullman's power because she only paid $125 of her $176 bill. The state's largest utility suspended disconnections last Thursday and Tucson Electric Power followed on Friday.

The originally proposed cutoff ban period was June 1 to Sept. 30, but it was extended by two weeks into mid-October at Kennedy's request. Commissioners also adopted a ban on utilities assessing late fees or interest during the summer months.

People who don't have their electricity cut off for non-payment during the summer months would still be required to pay their bills. And the commission's utilities division director, Elijah Abinah, said in a memo to commissioners that adopting the rule may raise rates for all customers, because payment delays and an increase in bad debt could be passed on to all customers.

Salt River Project, a major power supplier in metropolitan Phoenix with about a million customers, isn't covered by the commission because it is a quasi-government agency. SRP spokesman Scott Harelson Wednesday said his company hasn't decided whether to voluntarily follow the new rules if they were to be adopted, but the company works hard to avoid disconnections and suspends them during extreme heat events, as required under existing commission rules. He didn't immediately respond to an inquiry Thursday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.