RD822 - Report on the Study of HB1054 (2022)

  • Published: 2022
  • Author: State Corporation Commission
  • Enabling Authority: Rules of the Senate of Virginia , Rule 20 (o) (2022)

Executive Summary:

On February 14, 2022, and March 14, 2022, the Chairs of the House Committee on Commerce and Energy and the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, respectively, sent letters ("Letters") to the Division requesting the Staff conduct a review of the issues raised by House Bill 1054 ("HB 1054") (Attachment 1 hereto).

As introduced by Delegate Shin, HB 1054 would have prohibited telecommunications, electric, gas, water, and wastewater utilities and broadband companies from disconnecting service to a residential customer for nonpayment of bills or fees during a declared state of emergency, emergency, major disaster, disaster, resource shortage, or local emergency as those terms are defined in Code § 44-146.16. The Letters requested that the Division "develop recommendations on how best to protect utility customers from disconnection of service during public health emergencies and weather extremes and, in doing so, review current disconnection and reconnection procedures, including notice requirements and the use of late charges and fees." The results of Staff's review are presented below in this Response Letter.

In developing a response to the issues requested in the Letters, Staff requested input from the various entities described in the Letters: electric utilities, water and wastewater utilities, natural gas utilities, consumer advocacy groups, and environmental organizations. Staff received input from seven electric utilities, five natural gas utilities, four water utilities, 24 telecommunications and broadband companies, and one telecommunications association.(*1) Additionally, Staff received input from three advocacy groups.(*2)

Staff's review will be broken down into the following sections:

1. Existing statutes and the Commission's role relative to utility disconnection practices;

2. Current utility disconnection policies for nonpayment for:

a. Electric service;
b. Natural gas service;
c. Telecommunications and broadband; and
d. Water and wastewater service;

3. Recommendations from the advocacy groups; and

4. Staff's conclusions and recommendations.

Although the Letters and Staff's review focuses on emergency conditions, Staff believes a discussion of disconnection policies during non-emergency conditions is also helpful background and is therefore included in this Response Letter.
(*1) A detailed listing of the responding parties is provided as Attachment. It should be noted that many of the telecommunication companies responded by stating that they have no residential customers in Virginia.
(*2) See Attachment 2 for the list of advocacy groups.