News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

August 1, 2006

Some worried power company will disconnect them during heat wave

Every morning Donna Bown wakes up and wonders if her power will be disconnected.

With the heat index predicted to reach over 100 degrees today, the West Terre Haute resident fears she will be left to sweat it out. Because of a medical condition, she worries she will have trouble breathing.

Bown was scheduled for disconnect on Monday of this week from Duke Energy, she said. She is waiting to receive her disability check so she can pay her bill and keep cool. She currently doesn’t have the money to pay her past-due electricity bill.

“I wake up and think … is my power going to be shut off today?” Bown said.

Her situation poses the possibility that others during the Midwest heat wave will find their health endangered if a utility company shuts them off for nonpayment.

Duke Energy, however, doesn’t shut customers off during periods of extreme weather, said its spokeswoman Angeline Protogere.

“We do not disconnect customers during days like this when the weather is extremely hot,” she said.

Electricity consumers in Indiana set a new record high Monday for usage, using 6,602 megawatt hours. The record replaces the one set July 25, 2005, by nearly 200 megawatt hours, a way to measure the amount of electric usage.

If someone has received a disconnect notice, they should contact the utility company immediately, said Anthony Swinger of Indiana’s Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor.

“The ball is in the customers’ court to contact the utility and let them know the situation,” he said.

Indiana consumers such as Bown have little protection from utility disconnection during the hot summer months, Swinger said.

“The only [law protecting consumers] that Indiana has is during the winter heating season,” he said, “and it applies to electricity and natural gas and only to consumers who qualify for low-income home energy assistance.”

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