Electric power disconnections and rate hike hearings have been put on hold around North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The fastest-moving American epidemic in over 60 years is apparently enough to shock both a mammoth power company and state and local regulators into action to protect ratepayers — at least temporarily.
First, the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) didn’t hesitate to indefinitely postpone a scheduled hearing on Duke Energy’s request for a 6% rate hike. Duke requested the delay of at least 60 days in response to the mounting pandemic. By law, the company was entitled to a decision on its request by July 26, but under the present circumstances, its prospects likely did not look rosy.
Second, Duke and its subsidiary Piedmont Natural Gas have announced they will suspend disconnections for nonpayment during the current pandemic crisis. Many cities and water utilities are announcing similar suspensions. Widespread public pressure successfully convinced them a generational pandemic is no time to leave anyone without access to clean water or the ability to heat it up for washing.
We can hope this crisis teaches longer-term lessons about the necessity to look after the victims of environmental and climate injustice.