Cheri Honkala and PPEHRC File Criminal Charges against PA Official for Leaving Thousands Without Gas

Cheri Honkala Entering the Office of the District Attorney

On Tuesday afternoon, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign and allies filed criminal charges against Catherine Buhrig, the Director of Federal Services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  PPEHRC has charged Buhrig with simple assault because of her failure to fulfill her duty of processing all Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program applications within 30 days.  Due to her irresponsible actions, an estimated 9,000 families in Philadelphia and statewide are living without gas in their homes.  For now these families do not have gas to cook their food and heat their water. However, once winter arrives they will also be living without heat.

Cheri Honkala, the National Coordinator of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign, accompanied by members and supporters, signed documents at the District Attorney’s Office formally filing the charges against Buhrig.  Thousands of “families have been waiting for more than 90 days” to have their LIHEAP applications processed, as the the Philadelphia Inquirer reported on May 31st, despite the fact that “a waitlist of more than 30 days is a violation of state rules.” The resulting injuries to families and children with no way to cook or heat their homes easily qualifies as the legal definition of assault, which is an action that “knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another.” (Chapter 27 Title 18 –Crimes and Offenses). PPEHRC will hear from the office of the District Attorney in seven to ten days and intends on proceeding with these criminal charges.  We will not let people go without heat this winter.