NJ utilities shouldn’t cut power for seriously ill people, lawmaker says
Earlier this summer, a New Jersey grandmother who had heart failure and was breathing from an oxygen tank to stay alive died after PSE&G shut off the power in her home.
A spokesperson for PSE&G said the account for Linda Daniels had been in arrears for months, multiple attempts to contact her had been made and the utility was not aware she had medical issues. But members of the Daniels' family claimed they had told PSE&G about her situation and the bill had been paid.
One Garden State lawmaker wants to make sure this kind of tragedy never happens again.
State Sen. Gerald Cardinale, R-Bergen, has introduced a measure that would prohibit electric utilities in New Jersey from shutting off service if it could put the life of someone seriously ill at risk.
“People would be able to register as having a medical condition that required the electricity to be continued," he said.
He said the idea is to make sure the electricity is never shut off under any circumstance if someone needs it to stay alive. That would include people who use devices for breathing or to keep their heart beating.
The legislation establishes a “medical customer” identification system that utility companies would be required to observe in order to ensure critically-ill customers do not have to cope with a sudden loss of service.
Cardinale said the bill would also require an electric company twice a year to ask customers if an individual in the household had a serious health condition.
He acknowledged some people might try to claim they had a serious illness so they could get away with not paying their utility bill. But Cardinale said this is a matter of simple decency.
“If I see someone falling down and I can prevent them from falling, I will do it.”
The senator said that he was in a serious car accident almost two weeks ago and right after the crash two people came running over to help him.
“We do this for one another. This is a certain amount of normal human behavior. Our corporations should have that same kind of humanity.”
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com