SB 272--
Session of 1997
By Committee on Utilities

9 AN ACT concerning municipal utilities and electric cooperative utilities; 10 cold weather rule. 11 12 Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Kansas: 13 Section 1. This act applies to all municipally owned utilities and all 14 electric cooperative utilities which provide either natural gas or electric 15 service to customers in this state. 16 Sec. 2. (a) The cold weather rule provided for in this act applies to 17 all municipal utilities and all electric cooperatives which provide either 18 natural gas or electric service to customers in this state. 19 (b) The cold weather rule provides for special payment and discon- 20 nection procedures for any residential customer with unpaid arrearages 21 to retain or restore utility service throughout the cold weather period, 22 which extends from November 1 through March 31. 23 (c) A utility shall not disconnect a customer's service between No- 24 vember 1 and March 31 when the local national weather service office 25 forecasts the temperature will drop below 35 degrees or will be in the 26 mid 30's or colder within the following 48-hour period unless: 27 (1) It is at the customer's request; 28 (2) the service is abandoned; 29 (3) a dangerous condition exists on the customer's premises; 30 (4) the customer violates any rule of the utility which adversely affects 31 the safety of the customer or other persons, or the physical integrity of 32 the utility's delivery system; or 33 (5) the customer causes or permits unauthorized interference with, 34 or diversion or use of (meter bypass), utility service situated or delivered 35 on or about the customer's premises. 36 In any of these situations, the utility may disconnect the service imme- 37 diately. Services disconnected under paragraphs (3), (4) or (5) must be 38 restored as soon as possible after the physical problems as defined in 39 paragraphs (3), (4) and (5) have been corrected. 40 In order to keep from getting disconnected when the temperature is 35 41 degrees or above, or to get reconnected regardless of temperature, a 42 customer must comply with the provisions of the good faith test. 43 Sec. 3. The requirements of the good faith test are not applicable SB 272

 1  when the temperature is forecast to drop below 35 degrees or be in the
 2  mid 30's or colder within the next 48-hour period. To meet the good faith
 3  test and qualify for the benefits of the cold weather rule, the customer
 4  shall:
 5    (a)  Inform the utility of the customer's inability to pay the bill in full;
 6    (b)  give sufficient information to allow the utility to make a payment
 7  agreement;
 8    (c)  make an initial payment of the arrearage plus the bill for con-
 9  sumption during the most recent billing period for which service was
10  provided divided by 12;
11    (d)  apply for federal, state, local or other funds for which the cus-
12  tomer is eligible;
13    (e)  enter a level payment plan (rolling average favored) for current
14  and future consumption with arrears paid in equal installments over the
15  next months until June 1, when it shall be paid in full;
16    (f)  not illegally divert (bypass meter) utility service; and
17    (g)  not default on a payment plan.
18    Sec. 4.  (a) The utility shall mail a written notice of the cold weather
19  rule once a year at least 30 days prior to the cold weather rule period to
20  each residential customer who is currently receiving service as well as to
21  each residential customer who has been disconnected during or after the
22  most recent cold weather period and who remains without service.
23    (b)  Each utility shall send one written notice mailed first class at least
24  10 days prior to termination of service. A customer may not be discon-
25  nected until a 48-hour forecast above the activating temperature is pre-
26  dicted by the national weather service. During the first 24 hours, which
27  will be the day prior to disconnection, the utility shall make at least one
28  telephone call attempt with the customer of record and make one attempt
29  at a personal contact with the customer of record on the day prior to
30  termination of service if telephone contact on that day was not made. The
31  telephone call attempt and the personal contact the day prior to discon-
32  nection is in addition to the other existing notice requirements.
33    (c)  If the customer is not contacted by the utility during the phone
34  call or the personal contact the day prior to termination of service, a utility
35  employee shall leave a disconnect message on the door on the day prior
36  to disconnect. There will be no charge for this service. On the day of
37  disconnection, the utility must receive a 24-hour forecast above the ac-
38  tivating temperature from the national weather service. If the tempera-
39  ture is then forecast to be below the activating temperature, the discon-
40  nection may not be carried out and the utility must wait for another
41  48-hour forecast above the activating temperature and follow the same
42  procedures prior to disconnection.
43    (d)  Utilities shall in the telephone contact, the 10-day written notice,
SB 272

 1  the personal contact and the disconnect message on the door in addition
 2  to other requirements also inform the customer of the existence of the
 3  cold weather rule, so that the customer can avoid disconnection by com-
 4  plying with the customer good faith test and the telephone number of
 5  the utility.
 6    (e)  The utility shall:
 7    (1)  Inform the customer of, or provide a list of, the good faith require-
 8  ments;
 9    (2)  inform the customer of, or provide a list of, organizations where
10  funds are available to pay utility bills;
11    (3)  inform the customer of, or provide a list of, all other pay arrange-
12  ments for which the customer might qualify;
13    (4)  adopt and inform customers about a third-party notification plan.
14    Sec. 5.  Upon documentation by the utility that diversion of service
15  has occurred (meter bypass) and that the customer has benefited from
16  diversion, the customer shall be deemed in breach of the good faith test.
17  Such breach may be cured by payment by the customer for the value of
18  the diverted service. The value of such use shall be estimated based on
19  historic use of such customer or such residence.
20    Sec. 6.  (a) Any customer who has defaulted in the most recent cold
21  weather period and remains in default has breached the requirements of
22  the good faith test. To cure such default, the customer shall make an
23  initial payment as set forth in the good faith test, pay any disconnect and
24  reconnect charges incurred as a result of such default and comply with
25  the provisions of the good faith test.
26    (b)  The customer should be encouraged to renegotiate cold weather
27  rule payments if they receive utility or other lump-sum assistance.
28    Sec. 7.  Any utility to which this act applies shall be subject to an
29  action in the district court of the judicial district in which a customer of
30  the utility brings an action for violation of this act. If the customer has
31  suffered damages of any kind because of such violation, the utility shall
32  be liable for the amount of such damages and for costs of the action and
33  for the customer's reasonable attorney fees as determined by the court.
34    Sec. 8.  This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its
35  publication in the statute book.