State regulators have announced that utilities will no longer be able to shut off the water, electricity or natural gas of residential customers if they don’t pay their bills. The order came during a week when Gov. Ned Lamont declared a public health emergency in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Attorney General William Tong petitioned the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to order utilities to temporarily stop service cutoffs in cases of nonpayment in light of the public health emergency.
“We’re asking people to stay home, work at home, practice social distancing, kids are being kept at home and schools are closed,” Tong said, “... so it doesn’t make any sense to cut off people’s electricity and natural gas and water when they need it most.”
PURA, which regulates a number of electric, water and natural gas utilities, approved that request Friday.
The ruling means shut-off orders for nonpayment will be temporarily suspended, but utility customers should continue to pay their bills, as they ultimately will be responsible for any charges accrued during the moratorium.
Major affected electric utilities include Eversource and United Illuminating. Major natural gas providers include Connecticut Natural Gas Corp. (CNG), Southern Connecticut Gas Co. and Eversource (formerly Yankee Gas Services Co.). Impacted water utilities would include Aquarion, the Connecticut Water Co., the Avon Water Co., and the Torrington Water Co., among others.
The Metropolitan District (MDC), which is not regulated by PURA, also announced Friday it will not initiate any water service shut-offs until further notice. The Regional Water Authority in south-central Connecticut also said it will halt water service shut-offs until at least April 30.
“The gravity of this situation demanded immediate action,” said Marissa Gillett, PURA’s chairman. “Especially with the closure of the school districts. And understanding that workers who are hourly and don’t have paid time off, at this point, would be facing tough decisions over the next couple of weeks to months about where to spend their money.”
Gillett said the order stands to keep utilities on for at least 100,000 customers at risk of service termination.
“We don’t want anyone thinking about that decision while this emergency persists,” Gillett said. “We think access to electricity, gas and water are crucial to seeing Connecticut residents through the duration of this pandemic.”