Regulators back plans to protect utility workers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – State regulators Tuesday approved proposals that will allow Tampa Electric Co. and Peoples Gas System to disconnect or refuse service to customers who threaten utility workers.
The companies, which are part of TECO Energy, requested approval from the Florida Public Service Commission because of what they said were numerous incidents of threats to employees, according to commission staff recommendations.
The approval Tuesday added threats to employees to a series of other circumstances in which service can be disconnected or refused, such as failure to pay bills and tampering with meters.
The Public Service Commission gave a similar approval to Florida Power & Light in 1996.
“The utility states that in most cases, a disconnection will have already taken place, and the restoration of service is what is being denied,” the commission staff recommendation about Tampa Electric said. “TECO notes that it does not take disconnection of its customers. or refusal· of service lightly and that disconnecting or refusing service will be considered an extreme event that will follow other efforts to remedy the situation, up to and including law enforcement or security escorts. Once the threatening condition is resolved to the utility's satisfaction, the utility will reconnect the customer.”
Public Service Commission Chairman Art Graham, in a statement issued after Tuesday’s vote, said utility workers in the field need to be safe.
“One of today’s sad realities is that a small percentage of customers will resort to threats when their service is being disconnected or restoration is denied,” Graham said.
News Service of Florida