A four-hour meeting fails to reach agreement on changes to the Cold Weather Rule that would make it easier for low-income Missourians to keep the heat on this Winter. The Office of Public Counsel softened its proposal. But utilities still object and the Public Service Commission is left to sort out the competing interests and decide if an emergency amendment needs to be added to the Cold Weather Rule this winter. The fear is that high natural gas prices and cold weather will make more Missourians than normal vulnerable to having their heat shut off. The Public Counsel wants to loosen Cold Weather Rule regulations; allowing customers to pay a smaller percentage of their bill to keep the heat on and giving them more time to pay the balance. Laclede Gas Company Vice President Michael Pendergast says utilities worry about mounting bad debt and want assurances that the cost of an emergency amendment could be covered. Time is running out for the PSC to make changes for this Winter, and a lawsuit from any of the utilities could tie up the issue through the Winter months.
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