Friday, March 14, 2008

PULP Asks PSC to Require National Grid to Provide Answers to Questions in "Grand Plan" Case

In October 2007 PULP petitioned the PSC on behalf of customers seeking a declaratory ruling to annul National Grid's "Grand Plan." See PSC Asked to Investigate Grid's "Grand Plan" The utility demands $1,000 as a condition of service to customers who owe the company more than $1,000 for service to a prior account in their name.

Under the Home Energy Fair Practices Act (HEFPA), applicants with arrears must be offered payment plans, payment plans must be fair and equitable, and an applicant with prior arrears can be made to pay no more than three months' bills as a down payment, with the remainder to be paid in monthly installments. The opportunity to obtain utility service on this basis is not available to some applicants who are disqualified by National Grid because, in a prior episode of service, they broke a prior payment plan which then expired due to the default. There is no such disqualification in the statute, which does not allow a utility to withhold service if the customer enters into a payment plan for the arrears. The PSC regulations distinguish between applicants with arrears who are eligible to obtain service with a payment agreement, and existing customers with arrears who in certain circumstances cannot have another payment agreement after they have broken one.

National Grid responded to the petition and the case has been submitted for a decision whether the "Grand Plan" violates HEFPA since late November 2007. See PULP Replies to National Grid’s “Grand Plan” Defense.

The Commission has taken no action in the case to date. PULP is concerned that tragedies and undue hardship may occur while service is being withheld under the challenged Grand Plan.

PULP recently moved to compel National Grid to answer questions regarding other issues in the case. National Grid opposed the motion on March 12, 2008 arguing that discovery is premature "[b]ecause there is no schedule of evidentiary hearings, appointed presiding officer or determination that formal proceedings are appropriate. . . ."

The motion is now pending.

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