SAN DIEGO, CA, Sept. 29, 2017 – Senator Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) is proud to announce that Senate Bill 598: Universal Access to Utility Service: Reducing Utility Shutoffs, was signed into law by Governor Brown. This legislation will ensure greater accountability and monitoring of utility customer service disconnections in California.
The law will require the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in each gas and electrical corporation general rate case to, among other things, conduct an assessment of and properly identify the impact of any proposed increase in rates on disconnections for nonpayment. It also prohibits disconnections due to non-payment for customers with qualifying life-threatening medical conditions. While utility disconnections significantly impact ratepayers, information on the rate of disconnections is not currently provided by a utility to the CPUC when a rate change is considered. This information is vital to understanding how rates currently impact utility customers, including the rate of disconnections for non-payment, and how an increase will make it more difficult for customers to avoid disconnection.
“Without taking steps to make the disconnection rate more transparent, the CPUC continues to consider and approve utility rate increases that lack a complete understanding of the impact on customers who already struggle to avoid disconnection,” said Senator Hueso.
The volume of annual residential disconnections for non-payment of electric and gas utility service has risen by 67 percent in five years, from 547,000 in 2010 to 816,000 in 2015. These shutoffs threaten the health of nearly 2 million of California’s most vulnerable populations – primarily children, low-income families, seniors and the physically disabled.
“The loss of basic electricity or gas service causes tremendous hardship and undue stress,” said Senator Hueso. “I applaud the Governor for signing this legislation so that we can begin to address this very serious issue.”