Amending Law to Establish Stronger Protections for Residents with Medical Conditions
To create a statute for termination of service consistent with the rules and regulations of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) approved tariffs, a bill to prohibit public utilities from terminating service for nonpayment unless a customer was provided a certified letter at least 10 business days prior to the scheduled termination date cleared an Assembly panel Thursday.
The measure is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joe Danielsen, Raj Mukherji and Carol Murphy.
“Laws regulating disconnection of public utilities in New Jersey must be clear and must help protect the elderly, families with children, disabled, and people with medical conditions,” said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “Disconnection of public utilities can be a health hazard for our most vulnerable populations. Residents should be ensured notification of disconnection in advance so that they are able to respond and resolve the matter quickly.”
The measure (A-312) amends current law to provide that a public utility is not to terminate a customer’s service for nonpayment unless the public utility provides the customer a certified letter notifying the customer that their service will be terminated for nonpayment on the scheduled termination date.
In July, PSE&G terminated power in the home of a Newark resident with a medical condition requiring an electric-powered oxygen tank. Utilities are prohibited from shutting off power to those with medical emergencies. However, the company said it was not aware of any medical conditions. The circumstances surrounding the death are under investigation by the BPU.
“What happened to Linda Daniels must never be allowed to happen again,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “If our vulnerable citizens face having their utilities shut off, utility companies should have proof that the families were properly notified and provided the exact time this last resort action would be taken.”
“While this bill is designed to help those with medical conditions and other challenging circumstances, it benefits everyone,” said Murphy (D-Burlington).
The bill was advanced by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. It will now go to the Speaker for further review.