BOSTON, MA (WBZ-AM) — There's a call by members of the Commonwealth Congressional Delegation for Columbia Gas to halt a planned winter rate increase in the aftermath of the September's gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley
In a letter written to Columbia Gas on Tuesday Massachusetts Senators Edward J. Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representatives Seth Moulton and Lori Trahan today asked why customers impacted by the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions and fires are receiving large backdated bills with due dates in January after the company assured they would not do so.
They say that this highlights a the lack of communication with residents about the bills.
"Residents of the Merrimack Valley went months without heat after the #MVGasFires. Now, Columbia Gas is sending ridiculously high backdated gas bills and planning a rate increase. We’re demanding an explanation and a full commitment to no increases in energy costs." Senator Markey said in a tweet.
“Your company’s actions are placing an untenable strain on the budgets of far too many local residents,” write the lawmakers in their letter to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President and COO Stephen Bryant and NiSource President and CEO Joseph Hamrock.
“At a time when families are often stretching their budgets to cover holiday expenses and higher bills, an unexpected bill of hundreds of dollars can come as an unwelcome devastating surprise.”
In the letter, the lawmakers ask Columbia Gas and it's parent company NiSource to respond to questions that include:
- Is it clearly stated on bills that customers have options to pay the bill in installments or that they have access to a time extension to make back payments?
- If customers are unable to pay the sizable bills in one month, what options is the company offering for deferred or delayed payment, without late charges?
- How is the company making all of its customers in the region aware of alternative options or services?
- How is the company calculating the reimbursement generated by alternative heating sources for those customers who installed such sources?