Tens of thousands of Missourians await the decision of the Public Service Commission to see what it will take to get their heat back on before winter. An emergency amendment to the Cold Weather Rule has been proposed by PSC staff to address the devastating effects of high gas prices and extremely cold weather. An estimated 29,000 Missourians have had their natural gas disconnected for failure to pay bills that piled up last winter. The average owed is around $600, but some consumers owe in the thousands. Current regulations call for consumers with huge debts to pay half of the total, then agree to repay the balance over 12 months. The staff proposal would allow heat to be turned back on in homes where a quarter of the debt was paid with a promise to repay the balance in 18 months. Utilities generally agree, though they advocate a 12-month repay and they want assurances they will recoup the costs of relaxing the rule. The PSC is taking the proposal under consideration and could reach a decision on Thursday.
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