live free or, fuck you

Some details of a recent news story out of New Hampshire really bother the hell out of me.  I’ve highlighted those details below.

Gov seeks probe after death of N.H. woman whose power was cut off
June 25, 2010 04:41 PM, By Brian R. Ballou and Martin Finucane, Globe Staff, and Alex Katz, Globe Correspondent (
full story at the Boston Globe)
SALEM, N.H. — The governor of New Hampshire called today for a speedy review of power company shutoff policies statewide, saying he was troubled by the death, after her electricity was disconnected, of a Salem woman who used an oxygen machine.

“I am terribly saddened and troubled by the tragic situation of Kay Phaneuf, a woman from Salem who depended on an oxygen machine and whose death may be connected to a decision by National Grid to terminate her power for non-payment,” Governor John Lynch said in a letter to the state Public Utilities Commission…..

The Public Utilities Commission is investigating what happened to Phaneuf. The commission sent a letter to National Grid Thursday seeking a number of records, including records of the Phaneufs’ billing and payment history, copies of past due and disconnect notices, and a chronology and detailed description of what happened on Monday….
National Grid spokesman David Graves wouldn’t comment on the status of the Phaneufs’ account but defended the company’s policies on shutting down power to people’s homes.

He said the company sends out notices on bills that are a month late telling customers they need to submit overdue payments. After another month, they send a notice telling customers that they must pay or face shutoff of their power. After another two weeks, they send a notice saying that shutoff is imminent unless payment is made by a certain date.

Graves said the state of New Hampshire also requires that a customer, if they have a medical condition that requires electricity in the house, send a letter to the power company every 60 days. That letter ensures that the power won’t be shut off in case of non-payment. Graves said National Grid’s own policy is the letter only needs to be sent every 90 days. He wouldn’t comment on whether a letter had been sent in Phaneuf’s case.”

Because life isn’t difficult enough for someone with a chronic medical condition, they have to remember to get a letter sent out every 60 days or risk DYING.  I’ve never really had a whole lot of respect for New Hampshire.  To me, they’re sort of like the South Carolina of New England.  But really New Hampshire?  Every 60 days?

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  1. R. G. Maines

     /  June 26, 2010

    Let’s start with the fact that they ARE responsible for her death and the family, if she has one, should sue!

    I’d like to know whether or not this particular electricity supplier has programs for people with disabilities, seniors, etc., because here in PA, Pennsylvania Power & Light Utilities does have a plan to assist those of us with disabilities and seniors on fixed incomes. They also have a budget plan, so that after one year of continuous service, you can get on a budget (average cost of electricity used by your home) so you pay the same monthly charge all year long. Many people find this easier, because they don’t take ‘big hits’ when cooling in the Summer or heating in the Winter.

    If we submit proof of a disability that requires the use of electricity for treatment or therapy, they CANNOT shut the power off.

    I find it a bit disconcerting that according to their own policy, you have 2 and a half months to get your finances in order or face shut off… often, if you have an illness or disability, your income is very tight, you can’t necessarily get back on track in such a short amount of time. Folks are often forced to choose whether they will buy groceries, purchase their medication, or pay a bill. They do a juggling act.

    They could have offered her to pay the current bill and add a small percentage of the past due amount, so she would have been paying off the past due amount over time, rather than requiring her to come up with the full amount, plus stay current.

    As with many seniors and persons with disabilities whom I’ve encountered, I’m sure she wasn’t aware that there are agencies in EVERY community, that can advocate on your behalf, to assist you when you feel you’re being treated unfairly. is a good place to start.

    I’m furious! It’s all about money, about making a buck, and there is no compassion, no humanity involved!


  2. Oh thank you for the link. You’re right – the tragedy is that there are organizations which offer advocacy tools and assistance. I’m sure budget-wise it’s hard to do all the outreach you’d want to. But what a terrible, sad situation. I realize that the electric company’s policy at least allows more time than the state’s required 60 days, but honestly, I think they can do better. Clearly they need to.


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