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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

SF 1857

2nd Engrossment - 85th Legislature (2007 - 2008) Posted on 12/15/2009 12:00am

KEY: stricken = removed, old language.
underscored = added, new language.

Current Version - 2nd Engrossment

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A bill for an act
relating to energy; regulating service disconnections by public utilities during
winter; proposing coding for new law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 216B;
repealing Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 216B.095; Minnesota Rules,
parts 7820.1500; 7820.1600; 7820.1700; 7820.1750; 7820.1800; 7820.1900;
7820.2000; 7820.2100; 7820.2150; 7820.2200; 7820.2300.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA:

Section 1.

new text begin [216B.096] COLD WEATHER RULE; PUBLIC UTILITIES.
new text end

new text begin Subdivision 1. new text end

new text begin Scope. new text end

new text begin This section applies only to residential customers of a utility.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 2. new text end

new text begin Definitions. new text end

new text begin (a) The terms used in this section have the meanings given
them in this subdivision.
new text end

new text begin (b) "Cold weather period" means the period from October 15 through April 15 of
the following year.
new text end

new text begin (c) "Customer" means a residential customer of a utility.
new text end

new text begin (d) "Disconnection" means the involuntary loss of utility heating service as a result
of a physical act by a utility to discontinue service. Disconnection includes installation of
a service or load limiter or any device that limits or interrupts utility service in any way.
new text end

new text begin (e) "Household income" means the combined income, as defined in section 290A.03,
subdivision 3, of all residents of the customer's household, computed on an annual basis.
Household income does not include any amount received for energy assistance.
new text end

new text begin (f) "Reasonably timely payment" means payment within five working days of
agreed-upon due dates.
new text end

new text begin (g) "Reconnection" means the restoration of utility heating service after it has been
disconnected.
new text end

new text begin (h) "Summary of rights and responsibilities" means a commission-approved notice
that contains, at a minimum, the following:
new text end

new text begin (1) an explanation of the provisions of subdivision 5;
new text end

new text begin (2) an explanation of no-cost and low-cost methods to reduce the consumption
of energy;
new text end

new text begin (3) a third-party notice;
new text end

new text begin (4) ways to avoid disconnection;
new text end

new text begin (5) information regarding payment agreements;
new text end

new text begin (6) an explanation of the customer's right to appeal a determination of income by the
utility and the right to appeal if the utility and the customer cannot arrive at a mutually
acceptable payment agreement; and
new text end

new text begin (7) a list of names and telephone numbers for county and local energy assistance and
weatherization providers in each county served by the utility.
new text end

new text begin (i) "Third-party notice" means a commission-approved notice containing, at a
minimum, the following information:
new text end

new text begin (1) a statement that the utility will send a copy of any future notice of proposed
disconnection of utility heating service to a third party designated by the residential
customer;
new text end

new text begin (2) instructions on how to request this service; and
new text end

new text begin (3) a statement that the residential customer should contact the person the customer
intends to designate as the third-party contact before providing the utility with the party's
name.
new text end

new text begin (j) "Utility" means a public utility as defined in section 216B.02, and a cooperative
electric association electing to be a public utility under section 216B.026. Utility also
means a municipally owned gas or electric utility for nonresident consumers of the
municipally owned utility and a cooperative electric association when a complaint in
connection with utility heating service during the cold weather period is filed under
section 216B.17, subdivision 6 or 6a.
new text end

new text begin (k) "Utility heating service" means natural gas or electricity used as a primary
heating source, including electricity service necessary to operate gas heating equipment,
for the customer's primary residence.
new text end

new text begin (l) "Working days" means Mondays through Fridays, excluding legal holidays. The
day of receipt of a personally served notice and the day of mailing of a notice shall not
be counted in calculating working days.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 3. new text end

new text begin Utility obligations before cold weather period. new text end

new text begin Each year, between
September 1 and October 15, each utility must provide all customers, personally or by first
class mail, a summary of rights and responsibilities. The summary must also be provided
to all new residential customers when service is initiated.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 4. new text end

new text begin Notice before disconnection during cold weather period. new text end

new text begin Before
disconnecting utility heating service during the cold weather period, a utility must
provide, personally or by first class mail, a commission-approved notice to a customer,
in easy-to-understand language, that contains, at a minimum, the date of the scheduled
disconnection, the amount due, and a summary of rights and responsibilities.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 5. new text end

new text begin Cold weather rule. new text end

new text begin (a) During the cold weather period, a utility may not
disconnect and must reconnect utility heating service of a customer whose household
income is at or below 50 percent of the state median income if the customer enters into
and makes reasonably timely payments under a mutually acceptable payment agreement
with the utility that is based on the financial resources and circumstances of the household;
provided that, a utility may not require a customer to pay more than ten percent of the
household income toward current and past utility bills for utility heating service.
new text end

new text begin (b) A utility may accept more than ten percent of the household income as the
payment arrangement amount if agreed to by the customer.
new text end

new text begin (c) The customer or a designated third party may request a modification of the terms
of a payment agreement previously entered into if the customer's financial circumstances
have changed or the customer is unable to make reasonably timely payments.
new text end

new text begin (d) The payment agreement terminates at the expiration of the cold weather period
unless a longer period is mutually agreed to by the customer and the utility.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 6. new text end

new text begin Verification of income. new text end

new text begin (a) In verifying a customer's household income,
a utility may:
new text end

new text begin (1) accept the signed statement of a customer that the customer is income eligible;
new text end

new text begin (2) obtain income verification from a local energy assistance provider or a
government agency;
new text end

new text begin (3) consider one or more of the following:
new text end

new text begin (i) the most recent income tax return filed by members of the customer's household;
new text end

new text begin (ii) for each employed member of the customer's household, paycheck stubs for the
last two months or a written statement from the employer reporting wages earned during
the preceding two months;
new text end

new text begin (iii) documentation that the customer receives a pension from the Department of
Human Services, the Social Security Administration, the Veteran's Administration, or
other pension provider;
new text end

new text begin (iv) a letter showing the customer's dismissal from a job or other documentation of
unemployment; or
new text end

new text begin (v) other documentation that supports the customer's declaration of income
eligibility.
new text end

new text begin (b) A customer who receives energy assistance benefits under any federal, state,
or county government programs in which eligibility is defined as household income at
or below 50 percent of state median income is deemed to be automatically eligible for
protection under this section and no other verification of income may be required.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 7. new text end

new text begin Prohibitions and requirements. new text end

new text begin (a) This subdivision applies during
the cold weather period.
new text end

new text begin (b) A utility may not charge a deposit or delinquency charge to a customer who has
entered into a payment agreement or a customer who has appealed to the commission
under subdivision 8.
new text end

new text begin (c) A utility may not disconnect service during the following periods:
new text end

new text begin (1) during the pendency of any appeal under subdivision 8;
new text end

new text begin (2) earlier than ten working days after a utility has deposited in first class mail,
or seven working days after a utility has personally served, the notice required under
subdivision 4 to a customer in an occupied dwelling;
new text end

new text begin (3) earlier than ten working days after the utility has deposited in first class mail
the notice required under subdivision 4 to the recorded billing address of the customer,
if the utility has reasonably determined from an on-site inspection that the dwelling
is unoccupied;
new text end

new text begin (4) on a Friday, unless the utility makes personal contact with, and offers a payment
agreement consistent with this section to the customer;
new text end

new text begin (5) on a Saturday, Sunday, holiday, or the day before a holiday;
new text end

new text begin (6) when utility offices are closed;
new text end

new text begin (7) when no utility personnel are available to resolve disputes, enter into payment
agreements, accept payments, and reconnect service; or
new text end

new text begin (8) when commission offices are closed.
new text end

new text begin (d) A utility may not discontinue service until the utility investigates whether the
dwelling is actually occupied. At a minimum, the investigation must include one visit
by the utility to the dwelling during normal working hours. If no contact is made and
there is reason to believe that the dwelling is occupied, the utility must attempt a second
contact during nonbusiness hours. If personal contact is made, the utility representative
must provide notice required under subdivision 4 and, if the utility representative is not
authorized to enter into a payment agreement, the telephone number the customer can call
to establish a payment agreement.
new text end

new text begin (e) Each utility must reconnect utility service if, following disconnection, the
dwelling is found to be occupied and the customer agrees to enter into a payment
agreement or appeals to the commission because the customer and the utility are unable to
agree on a payment agreement.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 8. new text end

new text begin Disputes; customer appeals. new text end

new text begin (a) A utility must provide the customer
and any designated third party with a commission-approved written notice of the right
to appeal:
new text end

new text begin (1) a utility determination that the customer's household income is more than 50
percent of state median household income; or
new text end

new text begin (2) when the utility and customer are unable to agree on the establishment or
modification of a payment agreement.
new text end

new text begin (b) A customer's appeal must be filed with the commission no later than seven
working days after the customer's receipt of a personally served appeal notice, or within
ten working days after the utility has deposited a first class mail appeal notice.
new text end

new text begin (c) The commission must determine all customer appeals on an informal basis,
within 20 working days of receipt of a customer's written appeal. In making its
determination, the commission must consider one or more of the factors in subdivision 6.
new text end

new text begin (d) Notwithstanding any other law, following an appeals decision adverse to the
customer, a utility may not disconnect utility heating service for seven working days
after the utility has personally served a disconnection notice, or for ten working days
after the utility has deposited a first class mail notice. The notice must contain, in
easy-to-understand language, the date on or after which disconnection will occur, the
reason for disconnection, and ways to avoid disconnection.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 8a. new text end

new text begin Cooperative and municipal disputes. new text end

new text begin Complaints in connection with
utility heating service during the cold weather period filed against a municipal or a
cooperative electric association with the commission under section 216B.17, subdivision 6
or 6a, are governed by section 216B.097.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 9. new text end

new text begin Customers above 50 percent of state median income. new text end

new text begin During the
cold weather period, a customer whose household income is above 50 percent of state
median income:
new text end

new text begin (1) has the right to a payment agreement that takes into consideration any
extenuating circumstances of the household; and
new text end

new text begin (2) may not be disconnected and must be reconnected if the customer makes timely
payments under a payment agreement accepted by a utility.
new text end

new text begin Subdivision 7, paragraph (b), does not apply to customers whose household income is
above 50 percent of state median income.
new text end

new text begin Subd. 10. new text end

new text begin Reporting. new text end

new text begin Annually on November 1, a utility must electronically file
with the commission a report, in a format specified by the commission, specifying the
number of utility heating service customers whose service is disconnected or remains
disconnected for nonpayment as of October 1 and October 15. If customers remain
disconnected on October 15, a utility must file a report each week between November 1
and the end of the cold weather period specifying:
new text end

new text begin (1) the number of utility heating service customers that are or remain disconnected
from service for nonpayment; and
new text end

new text begin (2) the number of utility heating service customers that are reconnected to service
each week. The utility may discontinue weekly reporting if the number of utility heating
service customers that are or remain disconnected reaches zero before the end of the
cold weather period.
new text end

new text begin The data reported under this subdivision are presumed to be accurate upon submission and
must be made available through the commission's electronic filing system.
new text end

Sec. 2. new text beginREVISOR'S INSTRUCTION.
new text end

new text begin The revisor of statutes must change the reference from "216B.095" to "216B.096"
wherever found in Minnesota Rules, chapter 7820.
new text end

Sec. 3. new text begin REPEALER.
new text end

new text begin (a) new text end new text begin Minnesota Statutes 2006, section 216B.095, new text end new text begin is repealed.
new text end

new text begin (b) new text end new text begin Minnesota Rules, parts 7820.1500; 7820.1600; 7820.1700; 7820.1750;
7820.1800; 7820.1900; 7820.2000; 7820.2100; 7820.2150; 7820.2200; and 7820.2300,
new text end new text begin
are repealed.
new text end

Sec. 4. new text beginEFFECTIVE DATE.
new text end

new text begin This act is effective September 1, 2008.
new text end