The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC or Commission) today issued for comment revisions to Chapter 56 of the Public Utility Code (Chapter 56), including but not limited to new utility reporting requirements, a new definition for medical certificates, an end to Friday utility service terminations, and installments for customers’ security deposits.
The Commission voted 4-0 to adopt the revisions to Chapter 56, which relates to the standards and billing practices for residential utility service. Act 155 of 2014, which reauthorized and amended Chapter 14 of the Public Utility Code (Chapter 14) and partially superseded Chapter 56, directed the Commission to revise Chapter 56 and promulgate regulations to administer and enforce Chapter 14 (Responsible Utility Customer Protection).
In making Chapter 56 consistent with the amended Chapter 14, the Commission has revised and updated several key areas. Relating to the definition of a “Medical Certificate,” the Commission is proposing new content standards for medical certificates, which under Act 155 must be in writing and in a form approved by the Commission. Prior to Act 155, the Public Utility Code contained no definition for medical certificates. Act 155 also added physician assistants to the list of health professionals who can authorize medical certificates, a change also sought in the proposed rulemaking.
Additionally, the Commission seeks further comment on several other proposed changes to Chapter 56, including but not limited to a requirement for utilities to report annually medical certificate usage, as well as customer accounts with arrearages in excess of $10,000; the end of termination of utility service on Fridays; and allowing customers to pay security deposits in three installments over a 60-day period. The proposed rulemaking also would make small natural gas distribution companies, as well as steam heat and wastewater utilities, comply with the same rules as electric and natural gas utilities.
Act 155 was signed into law on Oct. 22, 2014, by Governor Tom Corbett. It amends Chapters 5, 14, 22 and 28 of the Public Utility Code. In addition to establishing a definition for medical certificate, Act 155 allows the PUC to: 1) establish annual fees to fund the Commission’s oversight of natural gas suppliers and electric generation suppliers; 2) include the intrastate operating revenues of licensed entities in determining its budget cap; and 3) exclude from its budget cap funds received from the federal government and other sources to perform functions unrelated to the Commission’s jurisdictional regulation.