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Florida Regulators Asked For Emergency Order To Stop Utilities From Disconnecting Overdue Accounts

Stock photo. Photo courtesy of Florida Power & Light's Facebook page.
Stock photo. Photo courtesy of Florida Power & Light's Facebook page.

An environmental law group asked the Florida Public Service Commission Tuesday for an emergency order preventing electric companies from disconnecting overdue accounts.

Florida Power & Light and other major utilities stopped shutting off power in March, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to close. Utilities are now beginning to resume disconnections.

With more than a half million accounts past due, that puts over 1 million people at risk of losing power, said Bradley Marshall, an attorney for Earthjustice.

"The CDC has already enacted a nationwide moratorium on evictions because of the current pandemic. And Florida law has...recognized that cutting off electricity amounts to an eviction because of the necessity of electricity to safely live in Florida... And so what we're trying to do here is prevent an end-run around around the CDC moratorium."

The PSC has said it will let some utilities request rate hikes to cover losses for shareholders. Marshall says customers will need relief too.

"Long term debt relief is certainly something that we're going to have to be thinking about in order to get a lot of these people back on track. One of the people we're representing is over two thousand dollars behind on her electricity bill. And even on a bill repayment plan, she has no way of making that up."

Marshall said 23 other states now have moratoriums in place. Florida is the largest state without one. FPL did not respond to a request for comment.