Nashville, Tennessee – During a Special Conference today, the Tennessee Public Utility Commission ordered private-investor owned natural gas, electric, water, and wastewater utility companies to continue to suspend the disconnection of utility services due to nonpayment until the Commission’s next conference scheduled for August 10, 2020.
In view of the COVID-19 epidemic, the Commission’s order recognizes the challenges customers and businesses face as Tennessee businesses transition to reopening safely, while concurrently acknowledging the need to transition from the suspension of utility service shut offs to an environment of normalcy for both customers and utilities.
“We certainly understand the challenges facing consumers who rely on public utility services,” said Tennessee Public Utility Commission Chair, Robin L. Morrison. “But as our state transitions into its new normal, we must begin to look forward to the near future with an understanding that suspensions of service cut offs is not a long-term solution.”
The Commission’s Order invites the utilities under its regulatory oversight to file comments with the Commission on the impact of suspensions to its business operations and any relevant transitional proposals to service cut offs by July 15, 2020.
“To be clear, we recognize that there can be no one-size-fits-all policy that encompasses the entirety of a public utility’s operations or the challenges faced by its customers. So before we move to eliminate and lift the suspension of cut offs, more information would be of great value to the Commission.”
“I greatly appreciate the work Tennessee’s regulated utilities have done during this historic time in our state and nation,” added Chair Morrison.
Tennessee’s state of emergency status invoked by Governor Bill Lee is set to expire on June 30, 2020. Today’s action is a follow up to the Commission’s March 27, 2020 Order that will expire if the Governor does not extend the State of Emergency.
The Commission’s regulatory jurisdiction and authority extends only to private investor-owned public utilities and not to utility 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.