The order begins by giving some background. On March 6th, 2020, Governor Tom Wolf ordered an emergency declaration set to be active up to 90 days unless renewed. Then, on March 11th, 2020, The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.
The declaration then goes on to state:
The Proclamation of Disaster Emergency authorizes and directs the suspension of "the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of Commonwealth business, or the orders, rules or regulations of any Commonwealth agency, if strict compliance with the provisions ... would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with this emergency."
They also state that Section 1501 of the Public Utility Code provides that every public utility has a duty to furnish and maintain adequate, efficient, safe, and reasonable service as is necessary for the accommodation, convenience, and safety of its patrons, employees, and the public. Section 1501 explicitly requires such service to be "reasonably continuous and without unreasonable interruptions."
The order then states that following the unique circumstances of COVID-19, placing pause on any service shutoffs is consistent with Governor Wolf's actions.
It continues to quote the utility code as justification for their actions "Pursuant to the Commission' s regulations governing emergency relief, an Emergency Order will be issued only when there exists a clear and present danger to life or property or when the relief requested is uncontested and action is required prior to the next scheduled public meeting. 52 Pa. Code §3.1. Additionally, Commission regulations at 52 Pa. Code §3.2 provide that, in addition to the existence of an emergency, an emergency order is appropriate where the need for relief is immediate, there would be irreparable injury if relief is not granted, and the relief is not injurious to the public interest." Gladys Brown Dutrieuille, the chairman of the PUC, elaborates on their choice for this order stating that utilities are a clear necessity for public safety in a time of crisis. They reiterate the order once more and urge any utility to restore customer services if they can safely do so. Finally, the order itself is made clear followed by the chairman's signature.
That all electric, natural gas, water, wastewater, telecommunications, and steam utilities subject to the Commission’s jurisdiction are prohibited from terminating service during the pendency of the Proclamation of Disaster Emergency consistent with this Emergency Order.
Pennsylvania Utility Commission, "Pennsylvania Utility Commission Emergency Order", contributed by Andrew Rosenthal, The Energy Rights Project, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 20 July 2020, accessed 29 November 2023. https://energyrights.info/content/pennsylvania-utility-commission-emergency-order