On the eve of Christmas, the Public Utility Commission released the results of its annual Cold Weather Survey. The report indicates that 24,175 households in Pennsylvania will enter the winter without heat or are using an unsafe heating source.
The Pennsylvania Utility Law Project (PULP) sees a number of concerning trends in this report.
- In the Philadelphia Area, PECO reported that the number of properties using unsafe heating sources has more than tripled from 2014 to 2015.
- The total number of households without a central heating source due to termination of electric utility service has reached record levels of 9,169.
Patrick Cicero, Director of PULP, says that these numbers are alarming:
“I am particularly troubled that we continue to see these numbers increase year over year. In my view, this is a clear indication that additional support is needed to address the gap in universal utility services to the state’s most vulnerable individuals. No household should enter winter without heat or a safe source of heat; the fact that more than 24,000 households are forced to do so is both shameful and completely preventable.”
PULP also notes that 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 potentially thousands of other households without heat as a result of being unable to pay municipal, rural electric cooperative, propane, or oil bills.
If you or someone that you know is without heat this winter, you should contact your utility and your local legal aid office for assistance. Also, there is still time to apply for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). PULP’s LIHEAP Manual can assist both low-income individuals and advocates in dealing with common LIHEAP-related problems.