CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County Delegate Mike Pushkin said the West Virginia Public Service Commission’s decision to initiate a general investigation into how utility and cable companies alert customers when they experience service interruptions is a good step forward.

The PSC has reached out to a total of 14 companies around the state asking them to explain their process of notifying customers when an outage occurs.

Mike Pushkin

Pushkin told MetroNews that he’s glad they are taking it upon themselves to launch the investigation, even though he said it seems like a policy that should have already been put into place.

“One would think that it would already be the law, that it would already be in code that a public utility would have to have a public alert system in place, that they would have to let their customers know when there’s an outage,” said Pushkin. “I mean, they know how to get in touch with us when we’re late on a payment, they definitely should be able to get in touch with us when there is something wrong on their end.”

The companies named in PSC’s investigation include the following: Mountaineer Gas Company, Hope Gas Inc., Consumers Gas Utility Company, Union Oil & Gas, Inc., Cardinal Natural Gas Company, West Virginia-American Water Company, Beckley Water Company, Appalachian Power Company and Wheeling Power Company, Monongahela Power and The Potomac Edison Power Company, Morgantown Utility Board, Frontier West Virginia Inc., and Optimum.

According to their release, the companies have 20 days to respond to the order, which calls for them to explain how they notify affected customers, as well as if they have any plans to add to, modify, or improve their notification systems.

During the regular legislative session, Pushkin introduced a bill, HB 4010, that would mandate all public utilities create some kind of phone or text alert system in times of service interruptions or outages.

Pushkin, a Democrat, said it was unfortunate when the bill passed unanimously in the House but somehow went off track in the Senate, which he said he feels had something to do with political differences.

“Mainly because I feel the Senate majority, the Senate Republicans decided to play politics with it instead of really putting public policy first and putting the people ahead of the politics,” he said.

He said it was a simple, bipartisan bill that he believes still has broad support, and one that he said should pass during the next session if Senate Republicans can put politics aside and put sound public policy first.

Pushkin is a resident of Charleston’s West Side. He wanted to sponsor the bill after the Mountaineer Gas outage which occurred there back in November.

The outage began when West Virginia American Water Company’s water main broke and sent hundreds of gallons of water into Mountaineer’s main gas line. The incident left over 1,000 customers without gas and heat for about three weeks.

Pushkin said he was among many residents in the area who woke up wondering what had happened.

“A lot of us woke up the morning after the incident very cold and none of us really knew why, because, we had no notification from utilities,” he said.

However, Pushkin said he’s interested in what the PSC might find in this investigation and he believes it is long overdue.

He said this may have to do with the fact that they probably just assumed that if there’s alerts already in place for late payments, the companies would also have alerts for when disasters strike as what happened on the West Side.

“They assumed they would also be able to alert us when there’s a problem on our end, however, we assumed wrong, at least with one utility and they were unable to contact us when there was a problem,” said Pushkin. “So I think it’s important they’re doing it (the PSC), I’m glad they’re doing it.”

More information on this case can be found on the PSC website: Click on “Case Information” and access Case No. 24-0338-G-W-E-CTV-GI