Winter moratorium rules governing non-pay disconnects initiated by regulated natural gas, electric, and underground propane distribution companies are effective from November 1 until April 1. During that time period, utilities under Montana Public Service Commission (“Commission”) jurisdiction, such as NorthWestern Energy, Montana-Dakota Utilities, and Energy West, will not proceed with non-pay disconnects to residential customers if the customer has notified the utility of one of the following:
- The account holder has income at or below the federal poverty guideline;
- The account holder is a recipient of a public assistance program;
- A member of the customer’s household is 62 years old or older; or,
- A member of the household is handicapped.
A regulated utility will send their customer a letter seeking this information after an account becomes delinquent. It is the customer’s responsibility to let the utility company know, prior to disconnect, if any of the above situations exist in the home and provide documentation if requested. If the regulated utility is not made aware of any of these situations, they are allowed to proceed with winter non-pay disconnects but must first request approval from the Commission.
Companies not regulated by the Commission, such as cooperatives and above-ground propane distributors, are not required to obtain Commission approval prior to disconnecting utility service and have their own procedures to follow for winter terminations.
Customers are advised to contact their utility company to discuss their account. If the customer is not satisfied or has unanswered questions after talking to a regulated utility company they may contact the Commission’s Consumer Assistance Program staff at 1-800-646-6150 or 1-406-444-6150.