Saturday, July 13, 2024

NEW LAW: RI EXTENDS UTILITY SHUT-OFF MORATORIUM

New law extends winter utility shut-off moratorium

STATE HOUSE – A new law sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray and Rep. David Morales will codify and extend the state’s winter utility termination moratorium, which protects those struggling with their utility bills from energy shut-offs during the coldest months.

Under Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulations, electricity and gas providers are restricted from shutting off residential utility services for nonpayment during the state’s winter utility termination moratorium, which before the new law took effect, ran from Nov. 1 to April 15 of each year.

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The new law extends it to May 1.

The legislation (2024-S 20362024-H 7017), which passed the General Assembly June 13 and was signed by Gov. Daniel McKee June 25, provides two more weeks of protection while also enshrining these protections into law. It maintains the PUC’s discretion to extend the period further at any time based on conditions and customers’ needs. The legislation took effect immediately, making Rhode Island’s winter moratorium one of the longest among states that have them.

“We need to stop thinking about utility shut-offs as a dollars-and-cents issue and focus on the very real human consequences they have. Losing heat, hot water or electricity, particularly at a time of year when the weather is unpredictable and can still get very cold, is a health and safety hazard that forces people into impossible choices and dangerous decisions.

It’s a problem that disproportionately affects people of color and other populations that face many other challenges as well,” said Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield). “Adding two more weeks to the moratorium extends the safety it provides and protects some of the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders, including many children and elderly people on fixed incomes.”

Said Representative Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence), “It is imperative that all our working families, especially households with children and seniors, have the basic utility services of heat and electricity, as they are contemporary human rights.

We all know that the weather in Rhode Island can be unpredictable, even more so as climate change alters historic patterns. Over the years, we’ve experienced a range of temperatures from the freezing cold to heat waves, making the need for reliable utility services more important than ever.

Therefore, it is crucial we extend and codify our state’s annual termination moratorium period because each additional day with these protections makes a difference. This legislation will help ensure our most vulnerable residents have heat and electricity when they need it most.”

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