Velma Fordham, Has Much Changed Since Her Untimely Departure?

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Does anyone know what yesterday was? No, well let me tell you. Yesterday was the date of the 11 year anniversary of Velma Fordham’s death. Who was Velma Fordham? Sadly, she was the 58 year old woman who froze to death inside her apartment after National Fuel Gas (NFG) shut off her service in the Winter of 2001. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of Fordham in 2004, and of course NFG has denied the charges and continues to fight the case. I guess you can afford to do that when the CEO of your corporation makes $3,500 hourly.

Here it is about 11 years later, and we’re still not much closer to making access to holistic home weatherization for low income rate payers easier.

Please spare us the rhetoric about the programs that are all ready out there (some have been getting cut). The rebate programs, and HEAP (home energy assistance program). The rebate programs work best for those who have the upfront financial wherewithal to buy the energy saving appliances (furnaces, etc), and can therefore afford to wait to be refunded their money. The HEAP budget was cut significantly this past year. And, guess what? If you are on a voucher (which some low income people are), there is no guarantee on God’s green earth that this money (with all the cutting going on now in government spending) won’t get the ax too.

The bottom line is this; the more resources we have dedicated to fighting this problem (un-weatherized housing), the better. This includes using the money we already have (CIP money) better, and getting National Fuel Gas on board as a good corporate citizen. How can NFG do this? One way is very simple; meet with members of the community to discuss creative ways of attacking this problem, instead of brushing it off.

We want to make the future better for all of us. This involves making sure that in a recession, the people who could least afford to pay for a life needing service (heat), aren’t placed in a deadly position. A position where the back gas bill is astronomically high, and the current bill will never be lower (in an un-weatherized home). A position that unfortunately Velma Fordham found herself in, and that many NFG ratepayers today find themselves in.

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