By Bay City News Service
The California Public Utilities Commission today approved an emergency resolution that directs energy, water and telecommunications utilities to protect consumers who were impacted by wildfires last month.
The CPUC's emergency resolution applies to PG&E and utility companies in Southern California.
The resolution prohibits disconnecting the utilities of wildfire- impacted consumers for nonpayment and associated fees through November 9, 2018. Utilities also must discontinue billing customers whose homes are not capable of receiving service and may not charge a disconnection fee.
Utilities must waive deposit requirements for affected residents who seek to re-establish utility service for one year, and must expedite move-in and move-out service requests.
Utility companies also must stop energy usage estimates for billing for the time the home was unoccupied as a result of the wildfires.
The utility companies must also offer payment plans to customers with prior debt who have lost their homes or are displaced and want to establish service in a new residence.
The payment plans includes an initial payment no greater than 20 percent of the amount due followed by equal installments on the remaining debt of not less than 12 billing cycles.
Payment plans for customers who have service but go in debt after Oct. 17, 2017 also can make an initial payment of 20 percent and pay the balance owed over not less than eight billing cycles.
North Bay PG&E spokesperson Deanna Contreras said PG&E already has temporarily suspended bills for fire-impacted customers as part of its policy to suspend bills during and after a disaster.
PG&E also suspended disconnection actions at the onset of the fires against residential and commercial customers in fire-impacted areas and areas impacted by poor air quality.
PG&E also is protecting customers who lost property from collection actions for one year and is providing flexible, reasonable payment arrangements, Contreras said.
In addition, PG&E is providing no cost installation and removal of temporary electric service for customers' rebuilding efforts in eight fire-affected counties through Dec. 31, 2018, Contreras said.