For Immediate Release - March 06, 2012

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

DPU says economy warrants extra protection for low-income, elderly, seriously ill and other vulnerable ratepayers

BOSTON -- Tuesday, March 6, 2012 -- Citing continued economic challenges for Massachusetts' most vulnerable populations, 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, which includes recipients of fuel assistance. Year-round service protection exists for elderly consumers, as well as those who have an infant under 12 months in the home or have a serious medical condition.

“Current economic conditions continue to have a disproportionate effect on Massachusetts’ most vulnerable populations," said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. "This action will provide much-needed relief to these families who are unable to cover their home heating costs.”

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

In response to DPU’s request both Columbia Gas and New England Gas have already confirmed they will extend the moratorium for their customers until April 16. Columbia Gas serves 297,510 customers in Western and Southeast Massachusetts as well as in Merrimack Valley. New England Gas serves 53,229 customers serving communities including of Fall River, Dartmouth and Attleboro.

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