SAN FRANCISCO–The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved an emergency resolution ordering energy, water, and telecommunication utilities to take multiple actions to help protect consumers who are impacted by the October 2017 wildfires.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison, Southern California Gas Company, San Diego Gas & Electric, and Liberty Utilities will provide essential services that are critical to rebuilding the affected communities, according to the CPUC.
The resolution says wildfire-impacted consumers cannot be disconnected for nonpayment and associated fees through November 9, 2018. Also, utilities will discontinue billing customers whose homes are not capable of receiving utility services, and utilities cannot asses a disconnection charge.
Utility companies will waive deposit requirements for affected residents seeking to re-establish service for one year, and must expedite move-in and move-out service requests.
Energy usage estimates for billing for the time the home/unit was unoccupied as a result of the wildfires will cease.
Residents who have prior arrearages and have lost their homes from wildfires, or have been displaced and are seeking to establish service in a new residence, will be offered a payment plan with an initial payment of no greater than 20 percent of the amount due, and with equal installments for the remainder of not less than 12 billing cycles.
Also, residents who currently have service but go into arrearage after Oct. 17, 2017, will be offered a payment plan with an initial payment of no greater than 20 percent of the amount due, and with equal installments for the remainder of not less than eight billing cycles.
Utility companies will prorate any monthly access charge or minimum charges for affected residents typically assessed so that no customer will bear any of the costs for the time period after the customers’ home was rendered unserviceable by a fire.
For residents enrolled in the low-income program CARE, utilities will freeze eligibility standards and high-usage post-enrollment verification requests until at least Dec. 31, 2017. PG&E will also conduct outreach to provide this information.
Further, the CPUC has authorized PG&E to waive the costs that would normally be incurred to customers for establishing temporary service.
Communication companies in fire-impacted areas will refund their customers for the periods that the customers were without service due to the October 2017 fires. Carriers of Last Resort will waive connection charges for affected customers. Further, for customers of the low-income California LifeLine program, communication companies must suspend the de-enrollment for non-usage rules and delay the renewal process for the affected consumers.
California-American Water Company, Golden State Water Company, Kenwood Village Water Company, and Mayacama Golf Course Sewer Utility will work cooperatively with affected customers to resolve unpaid bills, and minimize disconnections for non-payment. They will also waive reconnection or facilities fees and suspend deposits for affected customers who must reconnect to the system, and provide reasonable payment options to affected customers. Bills will be waived for October for those customers who lost their homes in the fires.
“It is important that all utility service providers continue to work cooperatively and creatively to ensure residents and businesses impacted by the fires are assisted in their difficult path to recovery,” CPUC Commissioner Martha Guzman Aceves said.
The CPUC’s orders consolidate recommendations from stakeholders and utilities with other protections that were being developed by CPUC staff to address the needs of fire victims.