Maryland Public Service Commission announces regulations after Todd family incident
The Maryland Public Service Commission says they have approved final regulations that impose new notification requirements for certain situations.
These situations include service termination, utility reporting of theft of energy, and allows local governments to access service termination information in order to provide assistance to individuals and families. The regulations apparently took effect on Monday, and fives utilities until January 1, 2017 to establish the local government notification system.
In March 2015, Rodney Todd of Princess Anne, and seven of his children, died of carbon monoxide poisoning after using a generator to heat their home. The home’s meter had apparently been removed after it was found that it had been stolen from another vacant house and attached to the Todd home. Before August 17, under Maryland regulations, officials say utility service could be terminated without notice for a “customer’s unauthorized use of service by any method, including diversion of gas or electricity around a meter,” and that policy apparently applied even during extreme temperatures.
Senator James Mathias, Obi Linton, the Director of the Commission’s Office of External Relations, along with the Commission’s Technical Staff and other stakeholders, reportedly drafted proposed regulations to improve the way Maryland addresses service turn-offs that occur reasons other than non-payment.
Senator Mathias was quoted saying, As electric consumption technology changes, the utility companies are better able to detect unauthorized use, thus causing enforcement action. However, innocent residents can be affected through immediate service termination. The tragic loss of the Todd family in my district caused me to work effectively with the Public Service Commission and other stakeholders to improve our policy, and likely save innocent lives in the future. I am most gratified for this team effort.”
Commission officials say that utilities may terminate service without notice if there are hazardous conditions on the premises, if the utility’s equipment has been tampered with, or if there is unauthorized use of electricity or gas service. Also, if service his terminated due to an allegation of meter tampering, the utility must notify the occupants in person or by posting a written notice on the premises. The notice must apparently include safety precautions, including warnings of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning from portable generators, energy assistance, and information on how to have service reconnected.
“Our goal with these regulations is to make sure individuals and families have every avenue possible to obtain utility services in a way that is safe and lawful,” said W. Kevin Hughes, Chairman of the Maryland PSC. “This new process also gives local governments the information and resources they need to assist residents whose utility service has been terminated for theft or for use without an active account.”
According to the release, after service at a premise is terminated due to an allegation of theft, the utility must notify the Commission within one day. The PSC will apparently add the address of the service termination to an electronic database for access by local governments who may wish to provide assistance to the occupants. Under the regulations, utilities must maintain records of service terminations due to allegations of energy theft for three years and file annual reports with the Commission.
In the event that theft of energy is not alleged but service is being used without an active account, a utility must now provide written notice to the occupant in person at least three days prior to service termination, seven days prior if the notice is mailed,. The notice must also invite the occupant to apply for service and include utility contact information.