UPDATE: SCC denies utility service cut-off moratorium extension, Dominion Energy waits for legislative decision

Virginia News

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The moratorium placed on the disconnection of utility services in Virginia is set to expire on Oct. 5. On Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam wrote to the State Corporation Commission requesting that the moratorium be extended through Dec. 1 or until a General Assembly reconvened session, but the commission denied the governor’s request.

The suspension was previously extended in September to last until the beginning of October. The governor said the moratorium was put in place to protect public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The General Assembly is still meeting for the special session and Northam’s letter to the SCC said the requested extension is intended to give the legislature time to address this issue. The governor’s budget proposal submitted in August addressed the moratorium, a repayment plan structure and debt forgiveness program.

“With proposals for utilities and customers included in both the House and Senate’s recently introduced budget proposals, we are optimistic that the General Assembly will address this issue,” Northam said.

In its response to the governor Thursday, the SCC cited its previous order that said it would extend the moratorium beyond Oct. 5.

“As discussed in the enclosed order of September 15, 2020 (which also closed the Commission’s official proceeding in this matter), the Commission-mandated moratorium began on March 16, 2020, and will not be extended beyond October 5, 2020,” John F. Dudley, the commission’s counsel, wrote.

Dominion Energy will not shut off utilities for customers with late payments on Oct. 5, as the company awaits a legislative decision.

“We support the General Assembly’s proposed approach to extending the moratorium on disconnects and will not disconnect any Virginia customers for non-payment while waiting for the General Assembly’s final actions to take effect,” said Dominion Energy Spokesman, Rayhan Daudani.

Daudani is making it clear to people that Dominion Energy is not going to turn off anyone’s power during the coronavirus pandemic just because they couldn’t afford to pay their power bill.

“If your lights go out on a normal day outside of the pandemic, it’s cause for alarm. But if you don’t have electricity tomorrow, then you’re going to be in a situation where you aren’t going to be able to do your job, and your kid won’t be able to learn — and that’s very disruptive,” Daudani said. “Even more-so than it would be on a normal day.”

Dominion added an extra million dollars to its energy share program to help people pay their bills. Now the total is at $14 million in funds.

“This is an extraordinary set of circumstances,” Daudani said. “Something that most of us have never seen in our lifetimes. We want to make sure that in these extraordinary times that we, as a utility, are doing the right thing.”

According to the Associated Press, Dominion made $277 million in excess profits in 2018 and over $300 million in excessive profits in 2017.

Stay with 8News as this story develops.

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