For Immediate Release - March 01, 2011

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

DPU says economy warrants extra protection for vulnerable consumers

BOSTON - March 1, 2011 - Citing challenging economic conditions, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) today asked each of the state's electric and natural gas companies to extend until April 4 the current moratorium on winter utility shut-offs for low income, elderly and disabled residents.

"With fuel oil prices on the rise and continued economic challenges, we're pleased the DPU is taking this step to bring some relief to individuals and families struggling to keep up with their winter utility bills," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr.

Under the DPU's regulations, utility companies are prohibited from terminating service (for non-payment of balance due) for vulnerable consumers until the end of the winter heating season - March 15. With winter still holding its grip on the region, the DPU urged utilities to extend the termination moratorium by approximately 20 days.

"The Department is concerned that economic conditions this winter have had and will continue to have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable consumers: low income, elderly, seriously ill or disabled persons," DPU Chairman Ann Berwick wrote in a letter to utility executives, urging them not to initiate any service termination actions prior to April 4

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.