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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 6, 2012 04:00 PM
From: Senator Jim Ferlo
To: All Senate members
Subject: Title 66 Amendments on Termination Policy
Dear Colleagues:
In the near future I plan to re-introduce Senate Bills 574, 575, and 576 from the 2011-2012 legislative session. These bills amend Title 66 (Utilities) of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. Newspaper reports have demonstrated that the addition of Chapter 14 to Title 66 threatens the well-being of Pennsylvania residents. In addition, a weak economy has the potential to seriously harm utility customers. I am proposing three bills which amend Title 66 to add important consumer protections.

Document #1

Introduced as SB412

Description: I propose to remove the provision of Chapter 66 which permits winter shut-offs. Winter shut-offs threaten the public welfare. Prohibition of these shut-offs was amongst the most important consumer protection afforded under the previous law. Not only do winter terminations leave Pennsylvanians out in the cold, but they lead consumers to rely on unsafe heat sources which can lead to house fires; a threat to residents and neighbors. I will leave the provisions that allow the Public Utility Commission the ability to permit winter shut-offs in the event of illegal activity or danger.

Senate Bill 575 was co-sponsored by Senators Fontana, Stack, Kasunic, Brewster, Washington, and M. White.

Document #2

Introduced as SB413

Description: I will be introducing a measure that will reduce the permitted deposit that a utility can charge when a customer is trying to get new service, or get service reestablished after a termination, from one-sixth of a customer’s annual bill to one-twelfth.  The reasoning is two-pronged:

First, the deposit is extremely prohibitive for those people who are trying to establish a new residence, but have not yet established enough credit to secure utility service without a deposit. If required to pay a deposit on electric and gas service, as well as a security deposit for a new apartment, many young people and low-income families will simply not be able to afford moving into a new residence.

Second, people who have had service terminated are in difficult financial times. Under Chapter 14 it is now even more difficult to re-establish service after it has been terminated. The combination of costs resultant from re-establishing service and the winter shut-off provision continues the cycle of financial difficulty.

Senate Bill 576 was co-sponsored by Senators Fontana, Stack, Kasunic, Brewster, Washington, M. White and Farnese.

Document #3

Introduced as SB414

Description: Act 201 reduced the notification requirements utility companies were mandated to provide costumers prior to termination of services. Previously, face-to-face contact was required in order to inform a resident of their pending shut-off. It was believed that personal contact would establish the reality of the loss of service. As a result of Act 201, utility companies were no longer directed to make such personal contact. It has been argued that the changes in the notification requirements could be traced to home fires and other tragic events where customers were not made fully aware that their utility services were ending.

I am introducing language that had been used in the past in the Pennsylvania Code, and was in effect prior to the passage of Act 201, which would require that the utility make personal contact with any customer whose service is being terminated. This may also help to make the customer aware of programs such as LIHEAP or CAP that could help pay their bills and prevent a shut-off.

Senate Bill 574 was co-sponsored by Senators Costa, Fontana, Stack, Kasunic, Brewster, Washington, and M. White, and Farnese.