Who's getting pinched here?
Look at this graphic, which summarizes their data. A key thing to notice is that the axis for the bar graph (the towers representing paying customers) is truncated to show only the top 10% of the scale, so that a total decline of 3% in customers appears as a cutting in half of the bar. Dramatic, but misleading. The dollar scale is proportional, but it's worth noting that even a 30% increase in this "burden" over the last three years represents only $85 annually for paying customers, which is probably close to being lost in the noise of varying temperatures and rising prices.
PGW officials now say that because of soaring natural-gas prices, the social programs no longer make fiscal sense as the utility's paying customers, including thousands of working poor, face an ever greater burden.It's reasonable to question whether "19% of the average bill" going toward these subsidies is sustainable, whether nonpayment by customers who can afford to pay should be punished more severely, and whether a company that spanned both city and suburbs could do a better job of distributing the assistance. However, I think that the resentment that such a story would build up toward "deadbeats" is a bit blunted by the realization that it's something like $7 per month for most folks, even at current levels. At the very least, I'd like to see a breakdown of the amount that's due to nonpayment by delinquents versus pay-outs to the needy, before the utility uses a skewed argument to weasel out of its social obligations.