Gas customers question Southwest Gas blaming Mother Nature
TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9-TV) - Tossing pizzas is what Arizona Pizza Company does best. But for two days last week, the "open" sign outside the 15-year-old business suddenly went dark.
It was just one of the 14,600 homes and businesses left with no heat or hot water after a cold snap caused a massive Southwest Gas outage.
Southwest Gas is doing some tossing of its own, blaming most of the problems on someone much more powerful. "If you're looking for someone to put the finger on, her name is Mother Nature," said Bennett Burke, Southwest Gas' Director of Administration for Southern Arizona.
Burke told KGUN9 little could be done to prevent the outage, but admits the company could have done a better job of handling all the heat.
Arizona Pizza Company's manager, and some customers, agree.
"He (Burke) blames Mother Nature almost exclusively for the situation; is that a good enough response for you?" KGUN9 asked. "Clearly the weather was a big impact. But (the company) tried to take pressure off Southwest by blaming Mother Nature," said store manager Andrew Granger.
"He's just using Mother Nature as a scapegoat. I do agree (the weather) was a huge impact but they have to have some protocols if this would happen. (They) need to be ready for things like this," added customer Joseph Sutliff.
Fellow customer Sue Mullarkey agreed. "You sort of need to prepare for that; have drills and have an action plan. And, a B plan; obviously they didn't," she said.
Customer Karol Waldron said Southwest Gas had no choice but to blame Mother Nature on the outage. "I think this was an anomalous event, that these were historic low temperatures," she said. "I think they did everything they could do in preparation and post facto. I know the gas company was very responsive to the community's needs and flew in and brought in all of their out of state crews to try and help as quickly as possible."
Besides the inconvience to homeowners and businessowners that the outage caused, there's one more thing to consider. Granger estimates Arizona Pizza Company lost thousands of dollars in business. "I'm sure some homeowners want to be compensated for buying things like space heaters, but business should really push to be compensated in some way," he said.
Burke told KGUN9 that compensation is not just Southwest's decision. He said it will be a collaborative decision, with community input from political leaders. He said those money decisions will be made going forward, but did not give a specific date.