After two years of deliberations, today the Arizona Corporation Commission voted to adopt a rule that sets a series of policies in place related to when electric and gas utilities in Arizona can disconnect a customer’s service in the summer.
Wildfire: Igniting Community Action to End Poverty in Arizona and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, two organizations that have been deeply involved in the rulemaking process from the onset, applauded the Commission for integrating a number of provisions the organizations advocated for into the Commission’s Termination of Services rulemaking and passing the rule.
According to Diane E. Brown, Executive Director of the Arizona PIRG Education Fund, “By increasing the threshold dollar amount a household owes prior to a utility disconnection; significantly increasing education and outreach to better ensure ratepayers know where to seek financial assistance or arrange a payment plan if they have fallen behind on their bill; requiring utilities to work with public health and local community service agencies, and other entities to address issues facing heat-vulnerable populations; and requiring utilities to provide detailed metrics and a narrative each quarter, the Commission will provide adequate information and notice prior to disconnection for ratepayers as well as tools to help Commissioners and interested parties evaluate and improve implementation of the rule.”
Cynthia Zwick, Executive Director of Wildfire, added, “the open process that led to the passage of the Disconnection rules has resulted in a much better process for utility customers. While not perfect, the rules go a long way to protect vulnerable customers. The extreme heat and its related impacts is a larger public health issue which needs continued attention. The action taken by the Commission is one step forward in a larger solution.”
Wildfire and the Arizona PIRG Education Fund have requested that the utilities commit to a minimum of five years for the same disconnection standard – whether date or temperature based. The organizations said a minimum five year standard will help ratepayers know what to expect each year and is “essential to noting trends and evaluating the effectiveness of the rule and minimizing ratepayer costs from establishing multiple utility operations”. The organizations also encouraged the utilities to set up automatic six month payment plans with the opportunity to extend, in concert with a ratepayer’s request.
The utility disconnection rule applies to regulated utilities including Arizona Public Service, Tucson Electric Power, and UNS Electric. Salt River Project is not regulated by the Commission.