HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today released the results of its annual Cold Weather Survey, which showed that more than 24,000 Pennsylvania households are entering the winter season without heat-related utility service or using unsafe heating sources. In conjunction with the release of that report, the PUC urged consumers to contact their utilities as soon as possible about various programs to help them afford and maintain essential utility services.
“The coldest months of the year have arrived and there are thousands of individuals and families across Pennsylvania currently without electric or natural gas service or relying on unsafe heating sources,” said PUC Chairman Gladys M. Brown. “We urge those residents to take advantage of the numerous programs available to help them restore utility service in order to stay connected, warm and safe this winter.”
The 2015 Cold Weather Survey showed the following, as of Dec. 15:
9,169 residences are without safe electric heating, including 8,755 households without electric service and 414 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
15,006 residences are without safe natural gas heating, including 13,555 households without natural gas service and 1,451 households that are heating with potentially unsafe heating sources.
Additionally, 14,144 residences where electric service was terminated and 5,720 residences where natural gas service was terminated now appear to be vacant.
Note: Some households may be without both electric and natural gas service, resulting in a double-counting of some households.
The attached charts show the number of residential properties without service for each of the major, regulated electric and natural gas distribution companies in the Commonwealth.
Every year the state’s electric and natural gas distribution companies under the PUC’s jurisdiction are required to survey residential properties where service has been terminated and has not been reconnected during the course of this calendar year. Every December, the PUC releases those cold weather survey results.
The survey assesses the number of households without heat-related service entering the winter months. As part of the survey, the utility or its representative make four attempts to contact consumers who are known to be without heat-related utility service. The attempts may include telephone calls, letters and personal visits to the residence and are done on different days of the week and different times of the day. If the first three contacts are unsuccessful, the PUC requests that the fourth attempt be an in-person visit to the residence.
Homes using potentially unsafe heating sources are reported separately in the survey because of additional risks in those situations. According to the National Fire Protection Association, potentially unsafe sources of heat include kerosene heaters, kitchen stoves or ovens, electric space heaters, fireplaces and connecting extension cords to neighbors’ homes.
As part of the PUC’s annual “Prepare Now” campaign, consumers on limited or fixed incomes are encouraged to call their utilities about programs to help heat their homes or pay their energy bills such as Customer Assistance Programs (CAPs) and Low Income Usage Reduction Programs (LIURP). The Commission has also appealed to utilities to increase their efforts to educate consumers about other available resources, such as grants under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – which is administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) – with information available through local County Assistance Offices or via the LIHEAP hotline at 1-866-857-7095.
Additionally, The PUC emphasizes that consumers without utility service should understand their rights and responsibilities, including additional options that may be available for those who are seriously ill or are facing other unique circumstances, such as a protection from abuse order. Consumers should call their utility first to make arrangements to pay their bill. If they are unable to reach an agreement with the utility, the PUC may be able to provide assistance. The PUC can be reached toll-free at 1-800-692-7380.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Facebook for easy access to information on utility issues.
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