On December 22nd, The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission released the results of its annual Cold Weather Survey. The report indicates that 23,213 households will enter the winter without heat, a 4,000 household increase as compared to last year.
The graph below, prepared Robert Ballanger, Staff Attorney, Energy Unit at Community Legal Services, demonstrates the drastic increase that has taken place in the last year:
The Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) is concerned that many of those without heat this winter may have been barred by current law to receive payment agreements through the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or lost service as a result of their inability to pay the skyrocketing variable rates imposed by competitive supply contracts.
Additionally, the Cold Weather Survey reflects only those households who are without heat as a result of having their service involuntarily shut-off by a PUC regulated utility. It does not reflect the potentially thousands of other households without heat as a result of being unable to pay municipal, rural electric cooperative, propane, or oil bills.
Elizabeth Marx, Staff Attorney at PULP, considers this drastic increase a clear indication that enhanced programs are needed to address the gap in universal utility services to the state’s most vulnerable individuals. Read more about the type of policy reform needed to reduce this number in this article on TalkPoverty.org, written by Thu B. Tran and Robert Ballenger at Community Legal Services.
If you or someone that you know is without heat this winter, there is still time to apply for the Low-Income Heating Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Additionally, PULP’s LIHEAP Manual can assist both low-income individuals and advocates in applying for the program.