The Missouri Public Service Commission’s cold weather rule is in place for the winter. It helps customers with heat-related utility bills if they get into a bind. PSC Chair Scott Rupp said it prevents a utility from disconnecting a customer’s heat.
“You know if the temperature is projected to drop below 32 degrees, so if you’ve fallen behind on your payments and it’s starting to get cold and the weather’s looking like it’s going to be below freezing, they can’t disconnect you at that time,” said Rupp.
The rule, which has been in place since 1977, requires that customers be notified by mail 10 days before the date the utility intends to shut off service.
The rule is in place so a situation does not worsen for someone already struggling.
“Obviously if somebody is falling behind on their bills and they’re struggling, and the last thing you want to do is disconnect them right before it gets freezing, you know if a pipe freezes, or something then that just exacerbates their problem, and it makes it even more difficult for them,” he said. “Also, there’s a safety element for human life.”
Utilities that are not under the PSC’s authority, however, are not subject to the cold weather rule. However, local utilities are required to send notices before anything can be shut off.
“It’s never going to be a surprise to a person if they don’t fall under the Cold Weather Rule, but still, we just wanted to make sure that, at least from the Public Service Commission’s standpoint, we could do everything we could just to not exacerbate somebody’s difficult time,” Rupp said.
A customer who’s registered with a utility as elderly or disabled will get additional notifications before the service is disconnected during the Cold Weather Rule period. They may also be eligible for additional minimum payment arrangements.
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