For Immediate Release, April 30, 2020

Contact:

Greer Ryan, (812) 345-8571, gryan@biologicaldiversity.org

Seven State Bans on Electricity Shutoffs Expiring Soon

Issue Brief Highlights Need for Federal Disconnection Moratorium in Next Coronavirus Rescue Package

WASHINGTON— The Center for Biological Diversity released an issue brief today analyzing state orders suspending electricity disconnections due to the COVID-19 state of emergency. The brief found that 42% of states currently have no legally binding protections against electric utility shutoffs. Moreover, seven existing state bans on electricity shutoffs just expired or are set to expire in the coming weeks, raising the percentage of states with no legal shutoff moratoria to 56%.

“Millions of Americans will lose state protections from electricity shutoffs during the economic crisis created by the pandemic,” said Greer Ryan, energy policy analyst for the Center’s energy justice program. “When you look at the flawed patchwork of state policies, it’s clear we need a federal shutoff moratorium. Congress needs to make sure nobody’s left without power in this public health emergency.”

The brief also details how many existing state moratoria policies fail to protect rural electric cooperative and public power customers, who make up nearly 28% of power demand. The vast majority of state moratoria also lack important provisions that can help manage accumulating debt and protect families from long-term financial harm.

While most investor-owned utilities voluntarily committed to suspend shutoffs due to the emergency, those policies have major flaws. Of the 62 major investor-owned utilities reviewed, 47% have not promised to suspend late fees, and 90% have not committed to reconnect services for people who have already been disconnected.

“Although many private utilities voluntarily suspended shutoffs, there’s no guarantee against these companies changing course or leaving people with crippling accrued bills when moratoria are lifted,” said Ryan. “We can’t depend on voluntary corporate commitments to protect the millions of families who could be left in the dark by disconnections.”

The Center’s brief builds upon the work of the Energy and Policy Institute and grassroots efforts nationwide to ensure utilities keep the lights on during the COVID-19 crisis, including a letter that 830 utility-justice, environmental, faith, civil-rights and labor groups sent to Congress two weeks ago calling for a nationwide moratorium on utility shutoffs. More than a hundred Members of Congress have called for a nationwide shutoff moratorium to be included in the next coronavirus rescue package

The Center and other organizations are calling for Congressional action to support distributed solar development and energy-efficiency programs, which are vital to immediate job generation and long-term recovery.

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State policies analyzed in April 2020 by the Center for Biological Diversity. Image is available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.