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THE FINANCIAL CRISIS

More Americans' utilities turned off for nonpayment

October 07, 2008|From the Associated Press

The number of Americans whose electricity or natural gas has been shut off for nonpayment of their bills is up sharply in many parts of the country as people struggle with higher prices and a shaky economy.

Shut-offs are running 17% higher than last year among customers of New York state's major utilities and 22% higher in Michigan. They are up in dozens of other states, including California, Pennsylvania and Florida, according to an Associated Press check of regulators and energy companies.

Despite efforts by state and federal governments, utilities and private groups to help people avoid shut-offs this winter, some worry that the problem will only get worse.

Southern California Edison Co., with 4.5 million residential electric customers, reported residential terminations were up 10% through August of this year to 228,000; Westar Energy Inc. of Topeka, Kan., said it saw a 19.5% increase over the same period; and Tampa Electric Co. reported a 19% climb in disconnect orders through June for residential and commercial customers.

Meanwhile, people who rely on heating oil instead of natural gas or electricity to warm their homes are pleading for relief from high fuel prices.

Shut-offs often are brief, and the numbers can include customers whose service was shut off more than once.

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