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Recent Settlements Add Dollars to Low-Income Assistance Programs

April 11, 2014 — Over the past few months, three states reached settlements with utility companies that added funds to low-income assistance programs. Given the long winter and high fuel prices faced by many states this heating season, the approved a settlement between Starion Energy and the Office of People's Counsel. The utility agreed to pay $100,000 to the Greater Washington Urban League for the creation of the Special Energy Assistance Fund. The settlement resolved a case involving consumer complaints that Starion was using deceptive marketing and billing practices.

Ronan Gulstone, who directs the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations, praised the parties involved for finding a solution that met the needs of District residents.

"District residents come out on top," Gulstone told the media. "We are ecstatic that the Urban League will administer this fund. We know that it will go to the neediest residents."

In mid-March, the Connecticut Attorney General reached a deal with Connecticut Light and Power. The Attorney General agreed to not pursue financial penalties against the utility for the slow restoration of service to customers following a 2011 snowstorm. In exchange, Connecticut Light agreed to donate $2.5 million to Operation Fuel, a statewide fuel fund.

Operation Fuel is Connecticut's only statewide emergency energy assistance program. The nonprofit provided more than $3.5 million in energy assistance in the past year to more than 8,200 households. It also provided roughly $600,000 to local fuel banks, reaching 21,000 individuals.

An Operation Fuel spokesperson told the press, "These funds will make a significant impact in helping to improve the lives of those in need in all areas of Connecticut."

Finally, in late March the Vermont Attorney General settled a lawsuit with Irving Energy. The company is one of the largest propane vendors in the New England area, and the lawsuit focused on practices related to removal of tanks and fees. In settling the suit, Irving Energy agreed to pay $160,000 to Vermont LIHEAP; about $166,000 to 200 Vermont customers; and $100,000 in civil penalties to the State of Vermont.

Sources: Media reports