A group of Central Maine Power customers appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court on Tuesday to reinstate a pandemic ban on disconnection notices to those with unpaid bills.
The customers, associated with the group CMP Ratepayers Unite, called it “unreasonable” for the state’s largest utility to send disconnection notices during the winter, especially amid a pandemic, according to the Portland Press Herald.
Maine regulators placed a moratorium on disconnection notices back in March, but ended it in September, allowing disconnection notices to begin Nov. 1. In December, CMP customers sought a new moratorium, but the Maine Public Utilities Commission denied that earlier this month.
At the time, Public Advocate Barry Hobbins called the decision “disappointing,” and the surge of coronavirus cases in the state — which has led to an economic slowdown and further job losses — should be enough to prompt a new moratorium.
On Wednesday, the Maine Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported that four more Mainers have died from the virus as 462 cases were confirmed statewide. Maine reached a record-high 824 cases only two weeks ago. Due to the elevated cases, job growth has stifled, with the state adding only 400 new jobs in December.
In response to the newest challenge, the utilities commission said that customers who want to challenge their bill can contact CMP and discuss an affordable payment arrangement, the Press Herald reported.
Under state rules, utilities cannot disconnect power Nov. 1- April 15 unless approved by the commission. However, they are allowed to conduct debt-collection activities.
CMP has issued notices to 32,000 out of 640,000 of its customers, according to the Portland newspaper.