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Missouri panel brushes aside freeze on utility shutoffs

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — The Missouri Public Service Commission turned down a request that sought to put a moratorium on utility shutoffs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it has no authority to grant such an order.

The Consumers Council of Missouri filed a request for an emergency order that would have prohibited disconnection or discontinuation of residential electric, natural gas and water service through at least March 31.

The commission said in a statement released Wednesday that although it “shares its concern for the well-being of utility customers and all Missouri citizens during the pandemic,” it lacks authority from the Legislature to issue a shutoff moratorium.

The statement also said the Consumers Council failed to prove that a moratorium “is necessary to protect the public from an immediate danger.”

Officials with the council called the ruling “disappointing” on Thursday and urged utility companies to work with those in need rather than potentially risking their health with cold-weather cutoffs.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services cited on Thursday 3,569 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 35 additional deaths. The state has reported 356,607 cases and 4,834 deaths since the pandemic began.

An additional 13 deaths were reported in Greene County. All 13 people were in their 60s or older, including five people in their 90s and one woman who was over 100. Nine lived in long-term care facilities and all 13 had existing health conditions, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.

All told, 260 Greene County residents, including 64 people this month, have died from the virus.

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