Broad Coalition Urges the NYS Public Service Commission to #KeepWaterOn

For Immediate Release: July 20, 2020

A broad coalition of environmental justice, labor, faith-based, and legal rights organizations submitted joint comments to the New York Public Service Commission (PSC) urging the Commission to protect access to clean water during the COVID-19 pandemic and recovery. A subset of these organizations submitted more detailed comments with additional data and information.

On June 11, the PSC opened a proceeding to address the effects of COVID-19 on utility service. Millions of New Yorkers have been devastated by job and wage losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are struggling to afford basic necessities, including running water. The PSC proceeding could ensure clean water is accessible and affordable to all during the crisis.

The PSC may also decide how to implement a groundbreaking new law passed by the State Legislature and signed by the Governor in June. This new law (S.8113-A/A.10521) establishes a statewide moratorium on utility shut-offs during the COVID-19 state of emergency and requires reconnection of utility service that had been shut off during the emergency. For New Yorkers who have experienced a change in financial circumstance due to the COVID-19 state of emergency, the legislation also bans shut-offs for 180 days after the end of the state of emergency, prohibits late fees and penalties, and guarantees access to deferred payment agreements.

The PSC proceeding may ultimately determine how many New Yorkers will be protected from water shut-offs once New York’s state of emergency ends and what financial relief will be available to ensure families do not fall into unescapable water bill debt.

Rob Hayes, clean water associate at Environmental Advocates NY, said:

“New York’s Public Service Commission is about to answer a big question: who deserves clean water? Millions of New Yorkers are falling behind on bills, including water bills, due to the COVID-19 crisis. The PSC has the opportunity to prevent waves of water shut-offs from sweeping our state during the long recovery ahead. We urge the PSC to make water affordable and ensure all New Yorkers have clean water to wash their hands and stay healthy.”