Lamont wants to extend expired moratorium blocking power cutoffs
Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday asked Connecticut utility regulators to continue a moratorium that prevents electric customers from having their service shut off during the COVID-19 pandemic.
But that moratorium actually expired in October and it's not clear what the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority could do to revive it.
Companies including Eversource Energy and United Illuminating have since submitted plans to PURA to resume shutting off power for the first time since the moratorium was put into effect last March.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection on Wednesday filed an objection to those plans, arguing that PURA should keep a moratorium in place until planned federal programs designed to help struggling utility customers come online.
“PURA’s shut-off moratorium and other state actions have provided crucial mitigation to the pandemic burden for all of our residents, but especially those disproportionately impacted minority communities who have the highest energy burdens on their household budgets,” Lamont said in a statement. "We are simply too early in our comeback to begin lifting these lifesaving protections now and we believe that there is potential for more help to be on the way.”
More than $200 million has been designated by the federal government to assist Connecticut residents with rent and utility payments, the administration said.
A separate annual moratorium on shutting off power during winter months in Connecticut is set to expire next month.
Eversource spokeswoman Tricia Taskey Modifica said the company has programs in place to help customers manage their bills to prevent any power disconnections.
In its request to resume shut-offs, Eversource said it would send affected customers a transition letter and email that will remind them of that COVID-19 payment plans, hardship protections and any programs for which they may be eligible.
Customers who enroll in a COVID-19 payment program can pay their past-due bills over a 24-month period without risk of having their utilities shut off.
“The last thing we want to do is shut off anyone’s power," Modifica said. “In fact, we haven’t disconnected service to any customers since the beginning of the pandemic.”
Eversource said it plans to send initial disconnect notices to residential customers with balances in arrears over $1,000 and commercial customers who owe more than $500.
Messages seeking comment from United Illuminating were not immediately returned.
The DEEP said that of Eversource’s 2.2 million electric customers and 200,000 gas customers, at least 7% qualify for assistance programs.
PURA has not indicated when it might rule on companies requests to resume shut-offs.
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