US Senator Chris Murphy is calling for the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority to investigate Eversource after a News 8 investigation found the number of customers disconnected for non-payment nearly doubled in the last two years.
Murphy sent a letter to the PURA chair Katie Dykes on Thursday asking the state utility regulator to look into the findings before approving a proposed Eversource rate hike next month.
Connecticut’s junior Senator wrote:
“It has come to my attention that since 2015, the rate at which Eversource has disconnected customers has dramatically increased. Specifically, according to data provided by your agency, the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), in 2015, there were 28,851 disconnections; in 2016, there were 41,235 disconnections; and in 2017, there were 52,298 disconnections.
These increases are alarming, especially when viewed in the context in which they arose. By most measures, Connecticut’s economy has improved from 2015 to 2017, and over that same period, wholesale energy prices have remained at their lowest levels since the beginning of the century. While Eversource offers various repayment programs for delinquent customers, I am concerned that the extent of the company’s outreach may be insufficient, contributing to an upward trend in disconnections. Therefore, I respectfully request that PURA scrutinize Eversource’s disconnections and the company’s engagement in outreach programs for low-income customers while considering Docket No. 17-10-46, which is scheduled to be finalized on April 18, 2018.”
In February, News 8 Investigative Reporter George Colli reported the dramatic increase in in Eversource customers having their power shut off for non-payment. The investigation came on the heels of State Senator Len Suzio calling for a PURA investigation into third-party suppliers inaccurately billing customers.
Eversource responded with a statement:
"We disagree with the senator’s comment regarding our communications efforts and have reached out to his office regarding his concerns. Through a variety of channels including social media, our website - Eversource.com, and news releases, we provide our customers with a significant amount of information about the variety of programs that can help them. We always suggest customers call us immediately if they’re having difficulty paying their bill so we can work with them. We also regularly recommend customers take advantage of the many energy efficiency options available to help lower their overall energy use. Unfortunately, energy costs remain high, not just in Connecticut but throughout New England. While shutting off any customer is a last resort, unpaid bills drive up costs for everyone else. "
News 8 reached out to PURA for comment but has yet to receive a response.