COVID-19: PRC issues emergency rule preventing disconnections of utilities due to nonpayment
AZTEC — The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission has issued an emergency rule prohibiting PRC-regulated utilities from disconnecting residential customers for nonpayment during the public health emergency caused by the spread of the coronavirus.
The emergency rule received unanimous support during the meeting on March 18, which can be viewed online at nmprc.state.nm.us. It does not prevent utilities from disconnecting for safety reasons or emergencies.
This prohibition will last for as long as the governor’s declaration of public health emergency remains in effect. The majority of PRC-regulated utilities supported the emergency rule and many had already implemented such policies.
Because businesses have closed and workers have faced layoffs, the PRC order states certain residential customers may not have sufficient funds to pay the bills. The order continues that paying bills could also be harder for some customers as they try to maintain social distancing practices.
Many of the utilities, including the state’s largest electric utility Public Service Company of New Mexico, have already announced that they will not be disconnecting customers for nonpayment. PNM will not disconnect residential or commercial customers. People who have recently been disconnected due to nonpayment will have their power restored without a reconnection fee.
El Paso Electric has announced it will still be sending out bills and working with customers for payment, but it will not disconnect residential customers for nonpayment.
While they are not regulated by the PRC, both Farmington Electric Utility System and Aztec Electric Utility have announced they will not disconnect customers who are unable to pay their bills.
The PRC order applies to New Mexico Gas Company, which provides natural gas to customers in San Juan County.
New Mexico Gas Company has 22 payment centers throughout the state, however the utility’s general counsel Tom Domme stated it is considering closing the 22 payment centers and asking customers to pay using non-contact methods, like online payments. Domme said the centers could close Monday and if New Mexico Gas Company chooses to close the payment center it will send notices to customers.
Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at email@example.com.
Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e