Senate OKs Murray bill to extend winter moratorium on utility shut-offs


STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray to codify and extend the state’s annual utility termination moratorium, which protects those struggling with their utility bills from energy shut-offs during the coldest months.

Under Public Utilities Commission (PUC) regulations, electricity and gas providers are not permitted to shut off residential utility services for nonpayment during the state’s annual utility termination moratorium, which stretches from Nov. 1 to April 15 of each year.

Senator Murray’s legislation (2024-S 2036) extends that period until May 1 of each year, providing two more weeks of protection while also enshrining these protections into law. It maintains the PUC’s discretion to extend the period further at any time based on conditions and customers’ needs.

“We need to stop thinking about utility shut-offs as a dollars-and-cents issue and focus on the very real human consequences they have. Losing heat, hot water or electricity, particularly at a time of year when the weather is unpredictable and can still get very cold, is a health and safety hazard that forces people into impossible choices and dangerous decisions. It’s a problem that disproportionately affects people of color and other populations that face many other challenges as well. Adding two more weeks to the moratorium extends the safety it provides and protects some of the most vulnerable Rhode Islanders, including many children and elderly people on fixed incomes.”

The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, where Rep. David Morales (D-Dist. 7, Providence) is sponsoring companion legislation (2024-H 7017).