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APS Can't Prove It Followed Rules Before Power Shut-Off

Arizona Republic

Arizona Public Service can't prove it followed regulations before shutting off electricity for a woman who died days later, state utility regulators reported Tuesday.

The Arizona Corporation Commission staff did not dispute APS' contention that the rules were followed but said the company was not able to provide documentation that it followed all of the state rules for power shutoffs, including a requirement to tell customers about available assistance from the government or charities.

The report also says it's unclear whether placing a door hanger at the home of 72-year-old Stephanie Pullman, which APS says it did, constitutes a required "personal visit" before the utility can turn off the power.

The report was prepared after the elected commissioners last week demanded an inquiry into Pullman's death after her power was disconnected on a 107-degree day last September. Commissioners last week enacted emergency rules barring APS and most other Arizona electric utilities from disconnecting power to customers who are late on their bills from June 1 through Oct. 15, when soaring desert heat can be lethal.

APS did not make a courtesy phone call to let Pullman know a $125 payment toward her $176 bill was not enough to keep her power on, though the call is not required by state regulations, the report said. Staff members also were not able to determine who made the $125 payment two days before Pullman's power was shut off.

The report says door hangers from other Arizona utilities provide customers more helpful information about how to keep the power on.

APS officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The report seeks to vindicate the actions of the commission staff after Pullman's daughter called the Consumer Services division in the days following her mother's death. Pullman's daughter said she reported her mother's death to the Corporation Commission and to APS, but nobody took action until the Phoenix New Times exposed it.

The report says the daughter called the commission 10 days after her mother died and two other times in the ensuing weeks, and claims the daughter "never communicated to Consumer Services that she believed that Ms. Pullman's death was in any way related to APS's disconnection of service."

But it also says of the daughter: "She requested the rules related to disconnection of service and the notice requirements. Her mother was found deceased in the home. Service had been disconnected."

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