2002 Regular Session
To: Public Utilities
By: Senator(s) Williamson, Simmons, Carlton, Frazier, Jackson, Blackmon, Walls, Furniss
AN ACT TO CREATE NEW SECTION 43-33-151, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI CUSTOMER ENERGY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CEAP) FOR THE PURPOSE OF PROMOTING HOME ENERGY AFFORDABILITY TO CREATE NEW SECTION 43-33-153, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS RELATING TO CEAP; TO CREATE NEW SECTION 43-33-155, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE ELECTRIC AND NATURAL GAS UTILITIES OPTING TO PARTICIPATE IN CEAP TO COLLECT A MONTHLY CHARGE FROM RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS, TO DEFINE PURPOSES FOR WHICH CEAP FUNDS MAY BE USED AND TO ESTABLISH THE MAXIMUM INCOME ELIGIBILITY FOR SERVICES FUNDED WITH CEAP FUNDS; TO CREATE NEW SECTION 43-33-157, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REQUIRE THE STATE AUDITOR TO AUDIT ALL RECORDS OF THE PROGRAM ANNUALLY AND TO REPORT TO THE LEGISLATURE ON THE OPERATIONS OF CEAP; TO CREATE NEW SECTION 43-33-159, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE FOR THE REPEAL OF THIS ACT; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The following shall be codified as Section 43-33-151, Mississippi Code of 1972:
43-33-151. The Mississippi Customer Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) is created. The purpose of CEAP is to promote home energy affordability for income-eligible residential electric and natural gas consumers.
SECTION 2. The following shall be codified as Section 43-33-153, Mississippi Code of 1975:
43-33-153. As used in Sections 43-33-151 through 43-33-157 the following words and phrases have the meanings ascribed in this section unless the context clearly indicated otherwise:
(a) "CEAP" means the Mississippi Customer Energy Assistance Program.
(b) "Department" means the Department of Human Services, Division of Community Services.
(c) "Participating distribution electric utility" means an electric public utility, including a municipal electric utility or electric cooperative, affirmatively opting to participate in CEAP and to collect the CEAP charge pursuant to Section 43-33-155.
(d) "Participating distribution natural gas utility" means a natural gas public utility, including a municipal natural gas utility or natural gas cooperative, affirmatively opting to participate in CEAP and to collect the CEAP charge pursuant to Section 43-33-155.
(e) "CEAP Fund" means the Customer Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) Fund created in the State Treasury and administered by the Department of Human Services, Division of Community Services.
(f) "Residential accounts" or "residential customers" means residential accounts or residential customers of a participating public utility as those accounts or customers are classified by the rate schedules or service rules of the participating utility.
SECTION 3. The following shall be codified as Section 43-33-155, Mississippi Code of 1972:
43-33-155. (1) (a) Each participating distribution electric utility shall collect a nonbypassable monthly charge of One-tenth of One Cent (1/10 of 1¢) per kilowatt-hour per month, not to exceed One Dollar ($1.00) per month, from each residential account receiving electricity.
(b) Each participating distribution natural gas utility shall collect a nonbypassable monthly charge of Three Cents (3¢) per hundred cubic feet per month, not to exceed One Dollar ($1.00) per month, from each residential account receiving natural gas.
(c) Participating distribution electric utilities and participating distribution natural gas utilities collecting CEAP charges shall remit the CEAP charge revenues to the State Treasurer or to a local nonprofit charitable organization approved by the Public Service Commission as provided in subsection (2). If remitted to the State Treasurer, he shall deposit the revenue into a special fund hereby created and known as the "CEAP Fund." The CEAP Fund shall be administered by the Department of Human Services, Division of Community Services, according to Sections 43-33-151 through 43-33-157 and those rules and regulations adopted by the department for the administration of the fund. The State Treasurer shall make disbursements from the CEAP Fund in accordance with rules promulgated by the department. The unencumbered or unobligated monies remaining in the CEAP Fund at the end of any fiscal year will be maintained in the fund, and will be available for expenditure during subsequent fiscal years until expended for the purposes for which originally collected.
(2) Participating utilities may remit the CEAP charge revenue to a nonprofit charitable organization as defined under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The charitable organization shall comply with all requirements established by the Public Service Commission and shall be approved for participation by the Public Service Commission before receiving any CEAP revenue. The charitable organization shall maintain the CEAP revenue in a separate trust fund and expend it in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Public Service Commission. The Public Service Commission shall issue guidelines for the administration of the charitable organization's trust fund which shall be similar to the rules adopted by the department in administering the CEAP Fund.
(3) Whether an eligible utility chooses to participate in CEAP or to terminate the utility's participation in CEAP is solely at the discretion of the utility. There is no necessity or requirement for approval by any regulatory authority of the utility's participation or termination of participation in CEAP of any utility decision regarding participation in CEAP or of the billing and collection of the charges required under subsection (1) of utilities participating in CEAP. However, a utility's participation must be pursuant to Sections 43-33-151 through 43-33-157. No responsibility or liability attaches to any decision by a utility to participate, not participate or terminate participation in CEAP.
(4) (a) Once an eligible utility opts to participate in CEAP, the billing of the charge pursuant to subsection (1) will begin with the first billing cycle of the prospective billing month after the utility has provided conspicuous notice to each of its customers of the charge to be collected unless the customer notifies the utility of the customer's desire not to participate in the CEAP program. The notice must be provided to all residential customers of the participating utility, with instructions on how the customer may opt out of participating in the CEAP program, with no less than three (3) billings preceding the billing cycle in which the utility intends to begin collecting the CEAP charges. Customers may opt out of participating in the CEAP program at any time.
(b) When a utility terminates its participation in CEAP, the termination will be effective after the end of the billing month that the utility designates as the final month of the utility's participation, which end of the month must be prospective from the date on which the utility makes its decision to terminate its participation.
(5) CEAP funds collected by a participating utility may be distributed only to eligible customers who reside in the participating utility's certificated area from which the funds were collected. All funds from CEAP shall be distributed pursuant to the rules adopted by the department, or guidelines adopted by the Public Service Commission, which rules or guidelines shall include the purposes for which funds may be distributed, including, but not necessarily limited to:
(a) Energy efficiency measures allowed by the U.S. Department of Energy under the federal Weatherization Assistance Program, 42 USC, Section 6861 et seq., or its successor;
(b) Home water conservation measures;
(c) Incidental housing repairs determined by the department to be necessary to ensure the viability of energy efficiency investments;
(d) Electric and natural gas bill affordability assistance; and
(e) Program administrative costs; however, the department or the approved charitable organization, whichever the case may be, shall not expend more than ten percent (10%) of the CEAP charge revenues remitted to it on program administrative costs in any given year. Program administrative costs shall include funds expended to provide, directly or indirectly, training and technical assistance to local agencies delivering CEAP services. This training and technical assistance may include providing information concerning conservation practices to income eligible customers. The department's rules, and the Public Service Commission's guidelines, shall provide that the distribution of funds from CEAP shall be for the purpose of making natural gas and electric utility bills more affordable to income eligible customers.
(6) The department's rules, and the Public Service Commission's guidelines, shall contain a maximum income eligibility for receipt of services funded by CEAP which maximum income eligibility may not exceed one hundred and seventy-five percent (175%) of the federal poverty guideline, as determined annually by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, the department and the Public Service Commission may define households participating in means-tested state or federal programs with similar eligibility guidelines, including, but not limited to, Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Security Income, as eligible for assistance through CEAP. The department and the Public Service Commission may define other low-income populations with particular physical or economic vulnerability to weather conditions or energy supply interruptions as eligible for assistance from CEAP.
(7) The department or the charitable organization, whichever the case may be, shall require the customer to show proof of verifiable income in order to be eligible for assistance through CEAP and shall maintain records of applications for assistance through CEAP, including proof of income. All records and applications approved and rejected shall be available for audit. If any customer has been convicted of the sale or manufacturing of any illegal drug, then the customer shall not be eligible for assistance through CEAP at any time.
(8) An eligible residential customer may receive one or more of the forms of assistance available from CEAP and may not be required to participate in the state or federal energy assistance or weatherization assistance programs as a condition of participating in CEAP.
(9) Services funded through CEAP will be provided without consideration of the source of revenues if the low-income customer receiving assistance is a customer of a participating distribution electric utility or participating distribution natural gas utility collecting the CEAP charge from its residential customers.
SECTION 4. The following shall be codified as Section 43-33-157, Mississippi Code of 1972:
43-33-157. (1) The department and the Public Service Commission shall monitor the provision of services funded from CEAP in order to ensure the effective provision of assistance for low-income persons.
(2) The State Auditor shall audit all records of the program annually and deliver to the Legislature an annual report which includes the following:
(i) The number of households eligible to participate in CEAP;
(ii) The number of households that participated in CEAP in the preceding year;
(iii) Program revenues, expenditures, and benefits provided; and
(iv) A description of the program activities.
SECTION 5. The following shall be codified as Section 43-33-159, Mississippi Code of 1972:
43-33-159. Sections 43-33-151 through 43-33-159, Mississippi Code of 1972, shall stand repealed on July 1, 2004.
SECTION 6. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2002.