By TIM FAULKNER\ecoRI News staff
WARWICK, R.I. — The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) took less than a minute on April 12 to approve an extension of the winter moratorium on electric and gas shutoffs to low-income customers.
“It’s consistent with previous years and I have no problem extending the deadline,” PUC commissioner Paul Roberti said shortly before the three-member board unanimously approved the extension.
The request was submitted by the George Wiley Center, the Pawtucket-based nonprofit that advocates for low-income residents on issues such as utilities. The extension was sought because of a slow economic recovery and the threat of cold weather on public health.
The shutoffs were scheduled for April 15. The extension extends until May 1, the annual winter conclusion of the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
“This is an important decision that’s going to help all of the utility customers avoid having their electricity terminated in the next couple of weeks,” said Camilo Viveiros, lead organizer for George Wiley Center.
Viveiros said the PUC's vote helps hundreds of Rhode Island utility customers who recently received shutoff notices. About 20,000 utility customers have their gas and electricity turned off each year for failing to pay their bills.
National Grid, Rhode Island’s largest gas and electricity supplier, said it intends to comply with the vote as it has in previous years.
Please be assured that National Grid shares the George Wiley Center’s concern for vulnerable customers, the company wrote in a letter to the PUC.