PUC puts off vote on changes to utility shutoffs - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

PUC puts off vote on changes to utility shutoffs

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The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission voted Friday to postpone a decision on electricity and heat shutoffs this winter.

Low-income advocacy groups came to put up a fight against the PUC.

A proposed rule change would allow utilities to cut off heat earlier than ever before for people who can't pay.

Currently, regulations state the PUC can cut off someone's heat who didn't pay in April. The new rules would allow heat and electricity to be shut off in March.

Additionally, seniors over the age of 62 have been exempt from these shutoffs; the new rules would increase that age to 65.

The reason these rules have been proposed is to bring the PUC into compliance with Rhode Island law. But because so many people came ready to fight this proposal, the PUC will hold more public meetings in multiple languages around the state before voting on a change.

"There are a lot of people who are very concerned their protections were being completely taken away, and shame on us for not explaining better what we're trying to do," said PUC Chairwoman Meg Curran.

Fourteen different advocacy groups submitted proposals to the PUC to fight the changes.

"I feel that our group brought that pressure upon them to have more sessions. So yes, we're very happy," said Elmer Gardiner of the George Wiley Center.

While the commission wants the changes to take effect, they first want to make sure everyone who is potentially affected has an understanding of their protections and exemptions.

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