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Environmental groups ask Florida Gov. DeSantis to require utilities to keep power on

Four major utilities in Florida have already committed to keeping customers connected during the pandemic.

Several environmental groups urged Gov. Ron DeSantis in a letter this week to require utilities to keep power on for customers during the pandemic, even if customers can’t pay their bills.

Four of the state’s largest utilities have already committed to doing so, including Tampa Bay utilities Tampa Electric Co. and Duke Energy Florida.

"No family should have to choose between essential life-sustaining services during a national time of crisis,” Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, said.

Among the groups calling for action are Catalyst Miami, Florida Conservation Voters, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the CLEO Institute, Earthjustice, The New Florida Majority, ReThink Energy Florida and Solar United Neighbors of Florida.

DeSantis’ office did not respond to a request by phone and email for comment on Thursday.

Tampa Electric announced in early March that it would keep power on for customers and was followed by Florida Power & Light and Duke Energy Florida.

Related: Coronavirus Florida: Duke Energy, TECO will not shut off power for unpaid bills

“We’re keeping the energy flowing to our customers because we know how vital it is to their lives,” said Tampa Electric spokeswoman Cherie Jacobs at the time.

Tampa Electric also has a page offering resources for those who have difficulty paying bills during the pandemic, and encouraged customers to stay current on bills when possible so they don’t need to make a large payment after the pandemic.

In addition to keeping power on, Duke Energy will not collect late payments, fees for returned checks, or credit and debit card payments for residential accounts. Customers can also request extensions or deferred payments if they have an outstanding balance.

Gulf Power Co. and Florida Power & Light Co. also announced they would not shut off power for customers who can’t pay their bills.

State regulators will hold a special conference on April 28 to rule on requests from Tampa Electric, Duke Energy Florida Florida Power & Light and Gulf Power on whether the utilities can reduce customers bills in the coming weeks to aid with any financial hardships customers are experiencing. The savings would come from reduced fuel costs that would have been spread across a longer period of customers’ bills.

Related: Tampa Bay utilities ask regulators to reduce customer bills during pandemic

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