Keeping the Heat on
And, Missouri has a policy, the Cold Weather Rule, that requires utility companies to help you stay warm. When the outside temperature drops below freezing, the rule prevents companies from turning off the heat even if you're late paying your bill.
And the state Public Service Commission thinks the rule is even more important now.
"I think it's going to be vital this winter because we are experiencing record-high energy prices and record-high heating bills," said the commission's Jeff Davis. "And, as a result, you're going to have people that are not necessarily low-income that are going to have problems paying their bills this winter."
The rule also helps customers get their utilities turned back on more easily after a utility company shuts them off. The Office of Public Counsel wants to help even more.
"What our amendments do this year are simply add some additional protections that go to affordability and the ability for customers who are currently off the system to get back on the system," said Lewis Mills of the public counsel's office.
Columbia's Water and Light Department already has a cold-weather policy.
"During cold weather, we have a policy that , when it gets below 32 degrees, we don't turn off customers who are late or behind on their bills," said the department's Dan Danshow.
Davis hopes all Missouri utility companies are ready to do the same.
"I feel like I've done everything I can to encourage them, and it's up to them where they go from here," he said.
The Public Service Commission will meet next Tuesday, Dec. 13, to vote on the proposed amendments.
If the commission approves them, they will take effect for the next 90 days.