Central Maine Power Credit: CBS 13 | WGME

Maine’s Public Utilities Commission is opening an investigation into Central Maine Power’s winter disconnection policies.

That’s after a Central Maine Power notice to a customer this month claimed that electricity service could be disconnected without express approval from the Commission. In most cases, CMP is barred from such winter shutoffs.

Rockland resident Faith Deane says she received what appeared to be a hand-delivered document from CMP in her mailbox Wednesday. The mailer says that to avoid disconnection the recipient should call CMP. At the bottom, it read, “if you fail to contact us, we can disconnect your services during the winter months without approval” of the PUC.

“It’s really terrifying to come home after work to think, gee we’re in the middle of winter; we’re going to get a huge snowstorm tomorrow. I’ve got two little kids, and now they’re threatening to disconnect my electricity without any approval. It’s a horrible feeling,” Deane said.

Credit: Courtesy of Faith Deane via Maine Public

The PUC’s rules expressly bar utility disconnections from November through the end of March without formal approval from the PUC in almost all cases. But a CMP spokesperson said that when the company makes repeated attempts to contact a customer who is in arrears, and when a company representative also visits the site and “deems” it to be unoccupied, a winter disconnection can go ahead without PUC approval.

PUC spokesperson Harry Lanphear said there must be evidence such as uncollected mail, unplowed snow, a lack of cars in the driveway or other signs of abandonment.

“That’s when they can disconnect. And if they do, and they disconnect and somebody is really there, they have to reconnect immediately, because again, if it’s occupied, it requires our approval,” Lanphear said.

The mailer customer that Faith Deane said she received this week makes no mention of whether the premises had been “deemed unoccupied.” She acknowledges her household is in arrears and that she has been out of touch with CMP for months. But, she adds, she and her family “definitely” live there — with four cars on the lot.

CMP said since Nov. 15 it has served 1,000 CMP customers with notices of potential disconnection.

This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.