Massachusetts Lawmakers Decry Large Backdated Gas Bills for Families Impacted by Merrimack Valley Natural Gas Disaster
Markey, Warren, Moulton and Trahan ask company to commit to immediately suspend planned winter rate increase in Greater Lawrence service area
Washington (January 15, 2019) – Massachusetts Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Seth Moulton and Lori Trahan today asked Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and NiSource why customers impacted by the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions and fires are receiving large backdated bills with due dates in January after the company assured they would not do so, highlighting the lack of communication with residents about the bills. They also asked the company to immediately suspend the planned winter rate increase the company recently announced on communities in the Merrimack Valley, calling it “abhorrent” that Columbia Gas would attempt to institute business-as-usual rate increases on communities that have been dealing with the impacts of the September 13 disaster that killed one, injured dozens, and displaced more than a thousand households and businesses.
“Your company’s actions are placing an untenable strain on the budgets of far too many local residents,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President and COO Stephen Bryant and NiSource President and CEO Joseph Hamrock. “At a time when families are often stretching their budgets to cover holiday expenses and higher bills, an unexpected bill of hundreds of dollars can come as an unwelcome devastating surprise.”
A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
In the letter, the lawmakers ask Columbia Gas and NiSource to respond to questions that include:
- Is it clearly stated on bills that customers have options to pay the bill in installments or that they have access to a time extension to make back payments?
- If customers are unable to pay the sizable bills in one month, what options is the company offering for deferred or delayed payment, without late charges?
- How is the company making all of its customers in the region aware of alternative options or services?
- How is the company calculating the reimbursement generated by alternative heating sources for those customers who installed such sources?