Information Regarding Private-Investor Owned Utility Service Disconnections in Tennessee
During a Special Conference held today, the Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered private-investor owned natural gas, electric, water, and wastewater utility companies to suspend the disconnection of utility services due to nonpayment during Tennessee’s state of emergency status invoked by Governor Bill Lee.
The Commission states that, since the state of emergency was declared, it has received no complaints related to disconnections involving any one of its regulated utilities. And, in fact, many utilities acted quickly to inform the agency of various measures they had voluntarily committed to talking to assist their customers and communities, and to ensure continued safe and reliable service during this time.
The Commission’s order follows an emergency petition filed by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III urging additional relief for consumers adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected approximately (957) Tennessee residents according to the latest figures provided by the Tennessee Department of Health.
“To ensure that none of the Tennesseans receiving natural gas, electric, water, and wastewater utility services from a utility under the Commission’s jurisdiction are without continued access, I support this action to keep citizens connected during this state of public health emergency,” said Commission Chair, Robin Morrison.
Today’s order also directs regulated utilities to submit reports informing the Commission of their plans or procedures to assist customers impacted by the state of emergency, including plans to assist those with past due balances and payment plan options.
“We all know that utility services are essential-to-life services and are crucial to the public’s health, safety, and welfare,” added Morrison. “And I have confidence in the utilities under our jurisdiction to recognize the magnitude of the current situation and act appropriately to lessen the impact on its customers.”
“I also want to offer a heartfelt thanks to all of the utility personnel whose efforts are essential to safe and reliable service. You keep our water flowing and our power running and we greatly appreciate it,” said Morrison.
The Commission’s regulatory jurisdiction and authority extends only to private investor-owned public utilities and not to utilities services provided by any city, county, utility district or cooperative entity. Moreover, telecommunications companies that have elected market-based regulation under Tennessee Code Annotated 65-5-109 are also not subject to the Commission’s order prohibiting service disconnections.