SCC Moratorium on Utility Service Disconnects Will End on October 5

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SCC News

SCC to Recognize Rail Safety Week Digitally

SEP 21, 2020

RICHMOND – Rail Safety Week – the annual, nationwide campaign to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education – will appear differently this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) and others will observe the entire week (September 21-27) digitally.

SCC Rail Safety Manager Renee Salmon and VA Operation Lifesaver Coordinator Tracey Lamb agree that the goal is the same: to address head-on the need for rail safety awareness to combat the statistic that either a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S., as reported by Operation Lifesaver, Inc. (OLI).

Although in-person events will not be possible this year, the SCC plans to share potentially life-saving information on its website and social media pages. OLI has assigned each day of Rail Safety Week its own safety theme:

  • Monday – Proclamations, Media Outreach;
  • Tuesday – Law Enforcement Partnerships;
  • Wednesday – Crossing Safety, Professional Drivers;
  • Thursday – Commuter and Transit Safety;
  • Friday – Wear Red for Rail Safety;
  • Saturday – Trespass Prevention;
  • Sunday – Photographer Safety.

“Rail safety is much more than just a single tip or slogan,” said Salmon. “It’s a set of guidelines for different groups of people, including children, first responders, media professionals, photographers, personal and professional drivers, and more.”

OLI is encouraged by a 76% decrease in nationwide collisions at U.S. highway-rail grade crossings over the past 40 years. “But there’s still more rail safety awareness work to do,” said Lamb.

This year’s digital focus is perhaps most appropriate for photographer safety, the seventh and final day of Rail Safety Week. Photo shoots and ‘selfies’ on train tracks may be tempting for posting on social media, but both activities are dangerous and illegal.

Both Lamb and Salmon acknowledge the same rail safety awareness statistic: “Trains can take a mile or more to come to a complete stop and overhang the track by at least three feet. Please never put yourself – or your clients – in harm’s way, and remember that people mimic your behavior when they see your photos on the web,” Lamb said.

Virginia Operation Lifesaver is administered by the SCC’s division of Utility and Railroad Safety, which offers education sessions virtually and can be reached at Virginia@oli.org. Keep an eye out for the SCC’s digital messaging during Rail Safety Week. In the meantime, check out the SCC’s full list of resources at scc.virginia.gov/pages/Railroad-Regulation.
 

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Contact: Ford Carson, 804-371-9141

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SCC Utility Service Cut-off Moratorium Will End on October 5; Governor Requested Extension from September 16

SEP 15, 2020

RICHMOND – The general moratorium on utility shutoffs is extended through October 5, 2020. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) issued the order following a request from Virginia Governor Ralph S. Northam. The moratorium was originally set to end on September 16.

In a letter to the Commission on September 14, the Governor said, “My request for an extension will give the General Assembly the time they need to address this issue, finalize their budget, and complete their important work during this special session.”

In granting another extension, the Commission said it will not extend the moratorium beyond October 5, 2020. The Commission urged the Governor and General Assembly to appropriate funds for direct financial assistance to those customers who are unable to pay their bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission said, “We hope the General Assembly uses this additional time to act on this recommendation.”

The Commission wrote, “Since we first imposed the moratorium on March 16, 2020, we have warned repeatedly that this moratorium is not sustainable indefinitely. The mounting costs of unpaid bills must eventually be paid, either by the customers in arrears or by other customers who themselves may be struggling to pay their bills. Unless the General Assembly explicitly directs that a utility's own shareholders must bear the cost of unpaid bills, those costs will almost certainly be shifted to other paying customers.”

The SCC’s latest extension order means the moratorium will have been in place for more than six months. It was originally imposed on March 16, 2020, as an emergency measure to protect customers from the immediate economic impacts of the COVID crisis.

The end of the Commission-directed moratorium on October 5 does not mean the end of protections for customers in arrears who are making a good-faith effort to pay their bills over a longer time period. Customers who enter such extended payment plans with their utilities will continue to be protected from service cut-offs even after the end of this moratorium.

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Case number PUR-2020-00048 - View Additional Order on Moratorium
Contact: Ken Schrad, 804-371-9858
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