PURA Letter to CT Congressional Delegation
From Utility Commissioners
To: The Honorable Senators and Representatives of Connecticut
The Honorable Richard Blumenthal, United States Senate
The Honorable Christopher Murphy, United States Senate
The Honorable Rosa DeLauro, United States House of Representatives (CT-03)
The Honorable John Larson, United States House of Representatives (CT-01)
The Honorable Joe Courtney, United States House of Representatives (CT-02)
The Honorable James Himes, United States House of Representatives (CT-04)
The Honorable Jahana Hayes, United States House of Representatives (CT-05)
From: The Commissioners of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority
Dear Senators, Congresswomen and Congressmen:
As fellow public servants serving the great people of Connecticut, we commend you for your efforts to advocate on behalf of our citizens during this unprecedented crisis. Many of your offices are in regular communication with our agency, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), and we trust that you will not hesitate to contact us if we can be of service to you now or in the future.
We write to you today after receiving notice of a letter conveyed earlier this week to the leadership of the United States Senate and House of Representatives calling for the creation of “a nationwide moratorium on essential utility service disconnections until the COVID-19 pandemic threat has passed and the country’s economy has stabilized as part of the next COVID-19 package.” While we deeply appreciate the sentiment articulated in the letter – and indeed have taken such action ourselves already to establish a moratorium on service terminations for Connecticut residents and businesses – we are concerned that a one-size-fits-all nationwide policy would have unintended consequences with long-ranging implications for our ratepayers and public service companies alike.
Specifically, the adoption of a nationwide moratorium or other national ratemaking directives may be ill-tailored to the specific needs of Connecticut and may inadvertently exacerbate the problems we currently face, including energy affordability issues, declining utility revenues, and aging infrastructure. Before this crisis, we were already acutely aware of the mounting magnitude of “uncollectibles” associated with Connecticut utility service. In response, we acted last fall to launch an investigation into energy affordability and, this spring, embarked on concentrated “100-Day Sprints” with stakeholders and advocates to tackle four specific barriers that emerged during the investigation. In the face of this pandemic, however, the problem could become much worse. PURA is now focused on developing short- and long-term solutions to these complex problems, such as promoting expanded payment arrangements and enhanced arrearage forgiveness programs, as well as a renewing our commitment to energy affordability. We fear that federal action in this sphere may hinder state efforts and stifle innovation at precisely the wrong time.
So what can be done for Connecticut ratepayers at the federal level?
First, we can advocate for directing stimulus funds to regulated public service companies that would be used to directly offset uncollectibles that will accrue to our hardest-hit residential and non-residential customers during this crisis.
Reliable utility services are the backbone to our economy. Without utility service, residents cannot stay in their homes, and businesses cannot reopen. When the economy does reopen, having our businesses choose between paying rent and paying down utility service arrearages is financially unsustainable. Having our low-income residents choose between paying down utility bills so that they can remain in their housing versus paying for food is simply unacceptable. Let’s focus on directing stimulus funds to our public service companies to mitigate the inevitable question we will all be faced with when the moratoriums are lifted: where do we find the money to pay for the utility services provided to hardship customers during this emergency? Without a solid plan, we are all going to pay in the form of significantly higher utility rates in the years to come, which will only serve to hamper the state’s and our country’s long-term economic recovery.
Second, we can encourage the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take actions to ensure that broadband and internet service providers, which are subject to limited state jurisdiction, continue to expand and to provide critical communications services to all of our residents, including low-income individuals and families. These services are essential to remote learning and working while residents comply with Governor Lamont’s “Stay Safe, Stay Home” initiative. While PURA has implemented a shut-off moratorium and taken other measures with respect the electric, gas, and water utilities that we regulate, we are unable to do so with respect to federally regulated broadband and internet service providers. Consequently, federal action may be needed to promote and maintain this critical service for all of our residents.
We remain committed to our jobs as regulators, just as we know you remain committed to your roles as public servants. Please let us know how we can partner with you to ensure that Connecticut residents and businesses emerge from this crisis on sure footing.
Marissa P. Gillett
John W. Betkoski, III
Michael A. Caron
The Honorable Ned Lamont, Governor of Connecticut
The Honorable William Tong, Attorney General of Connecticut
Chairs, Vice-Chairs and Ranking Members of the Energy and Technology Committee of the
Connecticut General Assembly:
State Senator Norman Needleman, Chair
State Representative David Arconti, Chair
State Senator Matthew Lesser, Vice-Chair
State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, Vice-Chair
State Senator Paul M. Formica, Ranking Member
State Representative Charles J. Ferraro, Ranking Member
The Honorable Brandon Presley, President of the National Association of Regulatory
Commissioners and Commissioner of the Mississippi Public Service Commission
Greg R. White, Executive Director, National Association of Regulatory Commissioners
Meredith Hatfield, Executive Director, New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners
 See Letter to Congressional Leadership, April 15, 2020, available at: https://www.merkley.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/20.04.15 Bicameral Utility Access Letter Final.pdf.
 An overview of the actions taken by PURA in response to the public health emergency is available in an April 9, 2020 Letter to Industry, available at: https://portal.ct.gov/PURA/Press-Releases/2020/CT-PURA-Letter-to-Industry.