Disconnections to resume: BPUB’s temporary suspension began in October

Brownsville Public Utilities Board Administration Building pictured Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020, on Roberto Vargas Drive. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

The Brownsville Public Utilities Board announced Wednesday that beginning next month it will resume disconnecting customers whose accounts are delinquent.

BPUB suspended disconnections for overdue electric, water and wastewater bills beginning in October to help customers struggling with soaring utility bills. The temporary halt to disconnections coincided with a public outcry following release of a forensic analysis of BPUB’s failed Tenaska project and related rate increases.

Customers’ staggeringly high utility bills, however, were caused mainly by near record prices nationwide for natural gas, which most of the state’s power plants depend on.

The price of natural gas has fallen substantially since the last quarter of 2022, from just under $7 per Metric Million British Thermal Unit (MMBtu) in mid-October to a little over $2 per MMBtu on Wednesday.

BPUB General Manager and CEO Marilyn Gilbert said board members considered the matter carefully before ultimately deciding to end the suspension of disconnections next month.

“The decision to resume disconnections was not taken lightly, but it is important for customers to understand the impact of unpaid bills on our system and operations,” she said.

“We provide multiple payment options and assistance programs to help customers manage their bills, and we encourage those who are facing financial hardship to reach out to us before the disconnections begin.”

BPUB said it has implemented a number of measures to ensure disconnections are carried out safely and responsibly. Disconnections will be carried out only during normal business hours, and only after customers with past-due balances and pending disconnections have been notified, the utility said.

Customers will also be able to set up a payment plan or get help through financial assistance programs to avoid disconnection.

Applications to apply for assistance can be downloaded from the BPUB website in English and Spanish for submission to Community Action Corporation of South Texas by calling (956) 435-0379 or emailing [email protected]. Applications may also be submitted to Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley at (956) 541-0220.

“BPUB reminds customers to regularly check their account balance and make timely payments to avoid disconnections,” said the utility.

“Customers can access their account information, pay bills and sign up for payment plans online, through the BPUB app, or by calling Customer Service at (956) 983-6121 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on utility bill assistance programs go to brownsville-pub.com/.