Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t let utility companies turn off the heat on poor people who are behind on their bills less than a week before Christmas, but the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission might.
It meets Friday at 9 am to consider weakening the protections that prevent utility companies from shutting off service to people who are behind on their bills.
“Some of the proposed changes include weakening protection for the disabled and seniors, narrowing income eligibility levels, removing protection for the unemployed, and shortening protection in the winter time,” said activist Camilo Viveiros. “They are proposing gutting the rules by cutting 55 pages of crucial rules down to 8 pages of diluted protections. Every year 20-30,000 Rhode Island households experience the loss of utility service due to termination, numbers that are already too high and would increase if the proposed rule changes are accepted.”
The George Wiley Center is circulating a petition in hopes of convincing the three-member state public utilities board to not allow utility companies to turn off poor people’s heat and electricity when they are struggling to pay their bills.
The three members of the Public Utilities Commission are: former US Attorney Meg Curran, former assistant attorney general Paul Roberti, who worked in that office for 17 years and Herb DeSimone, an attorney who has represented Providence and Jamestown. All three commissioners are attorneys. Here’s more on each of them.
Here’s the full release from the George Wiley Center:
Please sign the change.org petition and attend the RI Public Utilities Commission (RI PUC) open meeting this Friday (Dec.20th) at 9am, 89 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick, RI. The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (RI PUC) is a body of 3 appointed commissioners that makes decisions regarding statewide utility issues.
The RI PUC has put on their agenda for Friday a vote on changes to their rules regarding utility termination. These dramatic changes propose weakening the rules that have offered people important protections from having their heat and electricity shut off. Some of the proposed changes include weakening protection for the disabled and seniors, narrowing income eligibility levels, removing protection for the unemployed, and shortening protection in the winter time. They are proposing gutting the rules by cutting 55 pages of crucial rules down to 8 pages of diluted protections. Every year 20-30,000 Rhode Island households experience the loss of utility service due to termination, numbers that are already too high and would increase if the proposed rule changes are accepted.
We need to speak out today to demand that the RI PUC not vote on any rule changes until they have held hearings across the state and in the evening so working families may attend. So far they have only held one hearing at their Warwick location during the working hours of the day and none of the rules have been translated into any language other than English. This is the first time in over a decade that they are attempting to make substantial changes to these rules. Last time, they held hearings in other parts of the state, and this time we request more hearings to assure a democratic process where people who are most affected can participate. Voting to accept the proposed rules would put thousands of seniors, disabled people, people with serious medical conditions, immigrants, children and low-income families at increased risk of being shut-off.
Take a minute today to sign this petition to the RI PUC demanding that they postpone their vote on these harmful rule changes and that they hold accessible hearings across the state. Contact us at georgewileycenterri@gmail.
com if your organization is willing to submit an organizational letter that highlights the impact of their proposed rule changes on the people you work with (here is a link to a comparison between the current rules and their proposed rule changes).
Please attend the RI PUC open meeting this Friday, December 20th, at 9am. It is important that we have a strong presence to pressure the PUC from passing these rule changes. Your attendance will make a difference!
Thank you for signing the petition, for spreading the word and for coming on Friday. Your actions this week are important in the lives of struggling Rhode Islanders for years to come!