Editors' Picks May 2021 Media Brief

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MORGAN'S REFLECTION

I found the articles that I contributed to the May Media Brief from weekly searches on Google News, using keywords “Philadelphia energy” and “utility debt”. I also receive daily news digests from U.S. Energy News and Northeast Energy News, but chose not to contribute any articles from those digests. I stuck to these combinations of keywords because I track energy-related news in Philadelphia for another one of my responsibilities as a researcher for the Energy Rights Project. Every few weeks I update “Philadelphia News You Can Use”, which is a PECE essay on energyrights.info which pulls together news reports and other media related to household energy in Philadelphia. Additionally, I was curious about any new articles that report on how the ending of seasonal moratoria and the lack of extension of COVID-19 utility moratoria is impacting customers, especially energy vulnerable customers who have not been paying their utility bills since the pandemic began. 

I deemed the article titled “PECO IMPROPERLY SHUT OFF NEARLY 50,000 CUSTOMERS BECAUSE OF COMPUTER GLITCHES” to be extremely significant, as it highlights another example of faulty technologies used by energy providers which in turn created home energy shortages that residents were ill-prepared for, similar to the Texas grid-failure. PECO mistakenly thrusted nearly 50,000 customers who were experiencing energy vulnerability (as they were receiving shut off notices)  into energy emergencies, and PECO chose not to remedy the faults on their end by reconnecting customers who were shut-off without proper notice.  This article also stated that nearly one third of the customers that were shut-off without proper notice in 2018 and 2019 are still without power. As of the week of June 6th, 2021, there are public hearings being held for PECO’s proposed rate increases, and with the economic repercussions of COVID-19 still looming, I have great concerns that more residents, including those who were energy vulnerable prior to COVID-19 and those customers who are newly vulnerable due to pandemic related hardships, will be without access to electricity if their electric rates increase.

 The article titled “DEMOCRATS UNVEIL $30BN BILL TO CANCEL WATER DEBTS AND BAIL OUT UTILITY FIRMS” gave me a lot of hope for a shift in energy culture in the United States. The bill discussed in this article would incentivize utility customers not to disconnect customers or fine customers by granting utilities loans that could be forgiven in full if the utility does not penalize customers for nonpayment or late payments. This is extremely important because utility companies justify shut offs and late fees by saying the penalties get customers to pay their bills on time, and of course utilities rely on ratepayers almost entirely to fund infrastructure maintenance and are increasingly in financially precarious positions due to COVID-19. If this bill gets put into law, the federal government will be stepping in and funding utilities so that they can recoup financially and afford infrastructure maintenance without penalizing customers, and penalizing customers often proves to be an ineffective way to get struggling customers to pay their bills anyways. A question that I have regarding this program is does the loan forgiveness element only apply to public and small utility companies or all utility companies? I think it'll be interesting, if this program does get put into law, to see which utilities choose to receive a loan from this program and what justifications they have for not receiving a loan, such as the loan not being large enough to cover their deficit.

MORGAN'S ARTIFACTS

Lakhani, Nina.  “Democrats Unveil $30bn Bill to Cancel Water Debts and Bail out Utility Firms,” the Guardian, May 20, 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/may/20/democrats-bill-water-utility-companies-coronavirus.

Maykuth, Andrew. "Peco improperly shut off nearly 50,000 customers because of computer
glitches." The Inquirer, May 7, 2021.

BRIANA's REFLECTION

The artifacts I presented this month are in line with the thematics that most interest me. This past year, I gave mostly been focused on covering utility disconnections and energy transitions. For the most part, the artifacts I chose this month reflect my usual research interests. Be it energy supply or discussions of pipeline construction, the artifacts all shed light on the actions taken by stakeholders in the energy field. I collect my articles through daily news digest from US Energy News and Northeast Energy News and Energy Choice Matters. However, none of the articles I contributed to this month come from these two sources. Instead, the articles I presented I collected by searching ‘energy’ and ‘Mid-Atlantic’ into the Google Search bar. Most of the articles this month do focus on Pennsylvania-specific energy discussions. I have been recently invested in energy regimes surrounding energy supply and production in the Mid-Atlantic, and especially Pennsylvania-related regimes. 

    The most engaging and interesting article for discussions on energy rights is Central Pa. landowners relieved as PUC rejects controversial powerline project: ‘We fought hard’. This article entrenches discussions of energy supply, energy production, and the power utilities usually hold over land that is not theirs. Particularly relevant to analyses of access to energy supply that is reliable are also discussions of eminent domain and the extent to which the government is actually entitled to take private land to sell it to another private institution. Beyond one’s right to access safe, reliable, and consistent energy, we should hold a right to retain our lands. 

    In similar discussions of energy supply and production, a new pipeline is being built in Pennsylvania. This article discusses the pipeline that is going through Appalachian territory. I chose this article because I felt it connected well to the article I highlighted prior. I think reliability of energy production and supply is definitely an issue in many low-income, communities of color across the country and projects like these usually negatively influence not only the health and environment of these communities, they also weed people out of their houses through processes of eminent domain that are discussed in the other article. My other two articles are matter-of-facts articles but I thought they should be included because they superficially address building new energy infrastructure and creating green energy complexes.

Briana's Artifacts

Baker, Earl. "Earl Baker: A new energy revolution in Pa." Trib Live, May 27, 2021, https://triblive.com/opinion/earl-baker-a-new-energy-revolution-in-pa/.

Benscoter, Jana. "Central Pa. landowners relieved as PUC rejects controversial powerline project: ‘We fought hard’." Penn Live, May 25, 2021, https://www.pennlive.com/news/2021/05/central-pa-landowners-relieved-as-....

Kovaleski, Dave. "PIDC taps Dominion Energy for Philadelphia Navy Yard O&M contract." Pennsylvania Business Report, May 21, 2021, https://pennbizreport.com/news/19967-pidc-taps-dominion-energy-for-phila.

Reuters. "U.S. gives Williams more time to build Pennsylvania-NY natgas line." May 20, 2021, https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/us-gives-williams-more-time-buil...

License

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Contributed date

June 9, 2021 - 4:15pm

Critical Commentary

This post is for the May 2021 Media Brief.

Cite as

Morgan Sarao and Briana Leone, "Editors' Picks May 2021 Media Brief", contributed by , The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 14 June 2021, accessed 19 June 2021.