For Immediate Release - March 12, 2010

Patrick-Murray Administration Calls on Utilities to Extend Winter Shut-off Protection for Vulnerable Consumers

DPU says economy warrants extra protection for low-income ratepayers

BOSTON - March 12, 2010 - Citing challenging economic conditions, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has asked each of the state's electric and natural gas companies to extend by a month the moratorium on winter utility shut-offs for low income customers, requesting that companies voluntarily refrain from initiating any termination proceedings until April 16.

DPU regulations prohibit utility companies from shutting off service (for non-payment of balance due) from November 15 through March 15 for low-income customers, including recipients of fuel assistance. Year-round service protection exists for elderly consumers, as well as those who have an infant under 12 months of age in the home or who have a serious medical condition.

"Economic conditions this year have had a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable consumers: low-income, elderly, seriously ill or disabled persons," DPU Chairman Paul Hibbard wrote in a letter to utility executives, urging them not to initiate any service termination activities until April 16.

The DPU sent letters requesting extension of the service termination moratorium to the following utility companies: Blackstone Gas, Berkshire Gas, NSTAR Gas & Electric, National Grid USA, NiSource Gas (Bay State Gas), Unitil (Fitchburg Gas & Electric), and Western Massachusetts Electric Company.