Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Puc Shares Concerns about Home Heating

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Puc Shares Concerns about Home Heating

Article excerpt

We agree with attorney Robert Ballenger's concern noted in the Dec. 29 article "State Survey Finds More Than 23,000 Households in Pa. Without Heat." The Public Utility Commission also is troubled by the increase of homes without heat-related utility service, as well as the danger that some residents face by relying on hazardous heating sources like stoves, ovens and space heaters.

A critical part of our mission at the PUC is ensuring safe, reliable service at reasonable prices for consumers. For this reason, we annually implement our "Prepare Now" campaign, during which we focus on educating consumers - and enlisting utility companies to help - to make sure we are all ready for winter heating bills and the potential price spikes that could come with bitter cold temperatures.

We believe many customers on limited or fixed incomes may not be aware of the numerous programs that could help them pay their bills and maintain service. In October, we sent our annual letter to all utilities, urging them to help inform customers of the options available to them. Customer assistance programs, hardship grants and other crisis services are available to eligible low-income consumers.

No one should be without heat this winter, but consumers share responsibility in avoiding termination of service. We encourage those with trouble paying utility bills - or whose service has been terminated - to call your utility company to arrange to pay your bills and restore service. Ask about your options and determine if you are eligible for an assistance program. If you are unable to reach an agreement with your utility, call the PUC at 1-800-692- 7380. It's not too late to prepare for winter weather.

ROBERT F. POWELSON

Chairman

Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission

Harrisburg

Neighborhood safety

The Dec. 7 article "The Google Effect" about East Liberty implies that East Liberty's residential turnaround is the inevitable result of Whole Foods, Home Depot and Google moving into the neighborhood. This is inaccurate. A study by Numeritics shows East Liberty only became a "neighborhood of choice" when people felt safe, not when the commercial business district improved.

In 2008, fully eight years after Whole Foods opened and 11 years after Home Depot arrived, residential crime in East Liberty was still high and property values still low. Google did not come along until 2012, yet by then residential crime had fallen by half and sales prices were up 120 percent. If not because of the commercial development, what happened?

In 2008, East Liberty Development Inc. began to target "hot spot" properties, the small number of nuisance and slumlord properties generating most of the criminal activity. ELDI purchased these properties and its property managers and off-duty police severely curtailed criminal behavior. Between 2008 and 2012, residential crime declined by 49 percent, with Numeritics finding a strong correlation between ELDI's strategy and the significant crime reduction. …

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