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Richard P.

Hevey
Senior Counsel

March 21, 2018

Mr. Harry Lanphear


Administrative Director
Maine Public Utilities Commission
State House Station #18
Augusta, Maine 04333-0018

RE: MAINE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION,


Investigation of Central Maine Power Company Metering, Billing and
Customer Communication Issues - Docket No. 2018-00052

Dear Mr. Lanphear:

On March 12, 2018, the Office of the Public Advocate (“OPA”) filed a letter with
the Commission in the above-referenced proceeding requesting that the Commission
order CMP to take no action on disconnections after the “winter disconnect” period
expires on April 15, 2018 and also order a stay on CMP issuing any new disconnection
notices pending the outcome of the Commission’s summary investigation. Also on
March 12, 2018, the Commission issued a Procedural Order providing that interested
persons could file comments on the OPA’s Request on or before March 20, 2018.
Attached is CMP’s response to the OPA’s Request.

CMP’s comments are being filed one day late due to an oversight. CMP
apologizes for this oversight and respectfully requests that the Commission accept
CMP’s comments on a late-filed basis.

Please contact me if the Commission has any questions regarding this


filing.

Sincerely,

Richard P. Hevey
Senior Counsel

83 Edison Drive, Augusta, Maine 04336


Telephone 207.621-6546, Fax 207.626.9577
www.cmpco.com, richard.hevey@avangrid.com

An equal opportunity employer


STATE OF MAINE DOCKET NO. 2018-00052
PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION
March 21, 2018

MAINE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION ) Comments of Central Maine


Investigation of Central Maine Power ) Power Company on OPA Request
Company Metering, Billing and Customer ) Regarding Disconnection
Communication Issues )

I. INTRODUCTION

On March 1, 2018, the Commission issued a Notice of Investigation pursuant to which the

Commission initiated a summary investigation into metering, billing and customer communications

issues which have arisen over the past several months with respect to Central Maine Power

Company (“CMP” or the “Company”). The Commission’s Notice of Investigation did not set forth

a procedural schedule for this summary investigation or provide for any defined next steps, but

rather only generally stated that the Commission’s summary investigation would be conducted

pursuant to Section 13 of Chapter 110 of the Commission’s rules, which is applicable to non-

adjudicatory inquiries conducted by the Commission.

On March 12, 2018, the Office of the Public Advocate (“OPA”) filed a letter with the

Commission in this docket requesting that the Commission order CMP to take no action on

disconnections after the “winter disconnect” period expires on April 15, 2018 and also order a stay

on CMP issuing any new disconnection notices pending the outcome of the Commission’s summary

investigation. Also on March 12, 2018, the Commission issued a Procedural Order providing that

interested persons could file comments on the OPA’s Request on or before March 20, 2018. In

accordance with that Procedural Order, CMP hereby provides its response to the OPA’s Request as

set forth below.

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While the OPA’s Request deals with disconnection notices, the Company would note that it

is always our preference to work with customers to proactively resolve payment issues that could

eventually lead to disconnection. The Company encourages customers to contact us in all of our

communications so that we may address a payment issue promptly. CMP works with customers to

establish payment arrangements and to educate customers on available assistance options. Not only

is it our responsibility to work with an individual customer to resolve past due balances, but also it

is our responsibility to all customers who pay for uncollected debt. It is within this background the

Commission should evaluate the OPA’s Request.

II. RESPONSE OF CMP

CMP does not support the granting of the OPA’s Request. As an initial matter, it should be

noted that this proceeding is currently a summary investigation, which the Commission has stated

will be conducted pursuant to Section 13 of Chapter 110 of the Commission’s rules. This section of

Chapter 110 is entitled “Inquiries.” Chapter 110 defines an inquiry as follows:

“Inquiry” means a non-adjudicatory and non-rulemaking proceeding initiated by


the Commission to obtain information and comment for the purpose of
determining whether a rulemaking or adjudicatory proceeding ought to be initiated
or exploring policy issues and forming preliminary policies not intended to be
enforceable.

Based upon this definition, an inquiry is distinguished from an “adjudicatory

proceeding,” which is defined as:

“Adjudicatory Proceeding” means any proceeding before the Commission in which the
legal rights, duties or privileges of a specific person or persons are required by
constitutional law or statute to be determined after an opportunity for hearing.

In its Request, the OPA is clearly asking that the Commission improperly restrict

the rights, duties and privileges of CMP under Chapter 815 with respect to the issuance of

disconnection notices. Section 10 of Chapter 815 sets forth the rights, duties and privileges

of utilities in issuing disconnection notices. If the requirements of Section 10 of Chapter

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815 are satisfied, utilities have the right to issue disconnection notices for any of the

reasons set forth Section 10(D) of Chapter 815, including non-payment on an overdue

amount of more than $50. Within the context of an inquiry, the Commission cannot grant

the type of relief sought by the OPA, namely to restrict CMP’s existing rights, duties and

privileges.

The relief sought by the OPA is extraordinary. It is directly contrary to one of the

three main purposes of Chapter 815 – to assure the utility’s right to collect proper payment

for utility services. In the event such payment is not made, CMP has the right and arguably

the duty to pursue disconnection of those customers that do not pay their bills in a timely

manner. Absent the right to disconnect customers that do not pay their bills, CMP’s

uncollectible costs will undoubtedly increase for all customers. In its investigation of

CMP’s credit and collections activities in Docket No, 2010-00327, the Commission made

clear that utilities are expected and required to manage their credit and collections activities

in a reasonable and prudent manner. As stated by the Commission in that case, “It is

reasonable to expect a prudently managed utility to manage its credit and collections

function so that customer bills do not go unpaid for extended periods of time.” Maine

Public Utilities Commission, Investigation of Central Maine Power Company’s Credit and

Collection Policies and Standard Offer Uncollectible Balances, Docket No. 2010-00327,

Order p. 38 (Jan. 25, 2013). One key tool available to utilities to ensure that customer bills

do not go unpaid for extended periods of time is the issuance of disconnection notices. The

Commission should not unnecessarily take away CMP’s use of this valuable tool in

managing its accounts receivable.

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Although not explicitly stated therein, CMP assumes that the OPA’s Request is

intended to apply to only disconnection notices that are related to a customer’s failure to

pay a past due bill. However, as written, the OPA’s Request on its face applies to the

issuance of any disconnection notices or actual disconnections for any reasons. Therefore,

the OPA’s Request is overbroad in that seeks to prevent CMP from issuing or acting on

any disconnection notices, regardless of the reason. Section 10(D) of Chapter 815 allows

utilities to disconnect service for a variety of reasons, including:

• unauthorized use;
• dangerous condition;
• directive from State or local official;
• customer request or abandonment;
• failure to pay;
• refusal of access;
• fraud or material misrepresentation;
• broken payment arrangement;
• failure to provide a deposit or guarantor;
• failure to apply for customer status;
• failure to comply with Commission decision;
• dishonored check; or
• failure to provide certification of a serious medical condition.

Many of these authorized reasons for disconnection are completely unrelated to any

concerns that may exist in connection with CMP’s billing or metering systems. For

example, it should be without doubt that CMP should be allowed to continue

disconnections when a customer is engaging the unauthorized use of electric service or if

the customer’s service poses a threat to the safety of any person or the integrity of the

electric delivery system. In addition to the other reasons stated herein, the OPA’s Request

should be denied because it is unnecessarily overbroad and would result in CMP being

unable to disconnect customers for a variety of valid purposes.

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Further, the OPA’s Request fails to recognize that Chapter 815 already adequately

protects the rights of customers who have a dispute regarding the amount of their bills. In

particular, Section 13(C) provides that “[a] utility may not threaten disconnection or

disconnect the service of a customer if the customer has informed the utility that the

customer disputes liability for the bill, a utility's deposit request, or the terms of a payment

arrangement required by a utility to avoid disconnection, until the dispute is resolved.”

Section 13(F) of Section 815 provides that if a utility cannot resolve a dispute with a

customer, the utility is required to notify the customer of the right to file a complaint with

the CASD. Section 13(G) of Chapter 815 provides that a utility may not threaten

disconnection or actually disconnect service to a customer that has filed a complaint with

the CASD. In short, the provisions of Section 13 of Chapter 815 fully protect the rights of

customers to avoid disconnection during the period when any unresolved disputes exist

regarding their utility bills. Consequently, the relief requested in the OPA’s Request is

wholly unnecessary.

Finally, CMP notes that the OPA’s Request is unsupported by any facts. The entire point of

the Commission’s summary investigation in this proceeding is to gather the information necessary

to determine whether there exists any systemic metering, billing or customer communication

problems affecting CMP’s ability to provide service to its customers. The OPA’s Request seeks to

completely circumvent the Commission’s summary investigation process and jump directly to the

unsupported conclusion that such systemic problems do exist and should be immediately remedied

through a prohibition on the issuance of new disconnection notices. The Commission should deny

the OPA’s Request and instead proceed with its summary investigation.

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III. CONCLUSION

The Company certainly recognizes the struggles that some customers have in paying their

electric bills and it is always our preference to resolve payment issues before taking steps to

disconnect service. The Company offers customers payment options and we are a valuable resource

in helping them identify assistance options for which they might qualify. The Company always

encourages customers to contact us so that we can work with them. However, the need to work

with individual customers must be balanced against CMP’s obligations to all customers to manage

its credit and collections activities in a manner that keeps rates low for all customers, including the

need to issue disconnection notices when appropriate.

CMP appreciates the opportunity to provide these comments in response to the OPA’s

Request. For the reasons stated above, the Commission should deny the OPA’s Request.

Please contact me if the Commission has any questions regarding these comments or needs

any further information from CMP.

Richard P. Hevey
Attorney for CMP

Central Maine Power Company


83 Edison Drive
Augusta, Maine 04336
Tel. 207-621-6546

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