Utility companies extend shut-off dates for cash-strapped customers
Many state residents struggling to pay their utility bills are protected until at least April 15 from their gas and electric service being shut off.
Several utility companies have agreed to extend the winter shut-off moratorium, which by law lasts from Nov. 15 to March 15 each year and applies to residents who fail to pay their bills due to financial hardship.
Secretary of State William Galvin called for a one-month extension Tuesday.
Galvin said if companies don’t agree, he may seek to change the law.
But several companies had already agreed to a longer extension before Galvin’s statement Tuesday.
The state Department of Public Utilities last week sent a letter to all companies urging them to offer an extension through May 1.
Two of them – Unitil and Berkshire Gas – have already agreed, said department spokeswoman Lisa Capone.
A spokesman for NStar said the company intends to extend the moratorium “until at least April 15.”
Spokesmen from National Grid and Bay State Gas did not respond to calls and e-mails for comment.
Capone said refusing to comply would be unprecedented.
“In the past, all companies have complied, and we have no reason to believe they would not this year,” Capone said.
The state is requesting that the extension apply to all low-income, elderly and disabled customers.
“The department anticipates that the combination of high energy costs and economic conditions this winter will have a disproportionate effect on the most vulnerable consumers,” DPU chair Paul Hibbard wrote.
The Patriot Ledger