Contact: Bruce Mirken, Greenlining Institute Media Relations Coordinator, 510-926-4022; 415-846-7758 (cell)

Crisis Last Winter Led to Push For Action

SAN FRANCISCO – The California Public Utilities Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposed decision that would give critical protections for Californians facing shut-off of their electricity and gas service. Last winter, The Greenlining Institute joined with a coalition of consumer advocates to push for such protections as Californians – battered by a weak economy and soaring unemployment – struggled to pay their utility bills and shut-offs spiked during the coldest, rainiest part of the year. The PUC held an emergency hearing on the crisis Dec. 16.

“If the PUC adopts this proposed decision, it will be very good news for Californians struggling to survive during the worst recession in memory,” said Greenlining legal counsel Stephanie Chen. “It will be good for consumers, but also good for the utilities, who will have a better chance of retaining good customers who have simply fallen on hard times.”

The proposed decision bars utilities from demanding additional deposits from qualified low-income customers and requires them to inform customers struggling to pay their bills that they have a right to arrange a payment plan spread over at least three months. It also requires utilities to speak in person to customers in particularly sensitive situations, such as those with medical needs.

A second phase of the PUC’s proceeding will address several other issues, including unexplained discrepancies in disconnection rates between different utility companies.

To arrange an interview with Greenlining’s policy experts, contact media relations coordinator Bruce Mirken at 510-926-4022 or 415-846-7758