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Oregon adds extra protections for utility customers through rule changes

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The Oregon Public Utility Commission has changed its rules to protect more people from having their utilities disconnected due to nonpayment.

The changes include extra protections during extreme weather events, like wildfires or extreme cold, according to a press release. Now, utility companies can’t shut off services due to nonpayment during wildfire evacuations. They also can’t disconnect services when the air quality index is at or above 100, which is considered “unhealthy for sensitive groups” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“This is a good step forward in improving the protections that are afforded customers experiencing financial and other difficulties,” PUC Commissioner Mark Thompson said.

The rule changes also prohibit companies from turning off services due to nonpayment any time temperatures dip below 32 degrees between Nov. 1 and March 30, or when a winter storm warning is in effect. Previously, the state prohibited disconnections only on days with projected high temperatures of 32 degrees or below.

The changes further prohibit utility companies from imposing late payment charges and collecting deposits. And some reconnection fees need to be waived for qualifying low-income customers.

Lastly, utilities need to give customers at least 20 days notice before disconnecting services due to nonpayment.

Copyright 2022 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.