Utility Districts Respond to Utility Shutoff Bill Getting Signed into Law
Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law that prevents utility companies from shutting off power during extreme heat Thursday.
Washington state will be joining the 19 other states who passed similar moratorium bills.
Engrossed Substitute HB 1329 would restrict utility companies and landlords from shutting off services due to non-payments on days when a National Weather Service alert is issues.
According to the state Department of Health, the heat wave from 2021 claimed 157 lives, making it the deadliest weather-related event in Washington state history.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson introduced this bill to the legislature in light of increasing temperatures brought on by climate change.
Both Chelan County PUD and Douglas County PUD were among the many utility companies expressing concern over the language of the original bill.
“We had concerns throughout the session and worked with the Attorney General's Office and the prime sponsors to try to improve the bill,” Douglas County PUD Public Information Officer Meaghan Vibbert said.
Chelan County PUD's Government Affairs Program Manager Kelli Scott said they had concerns over the bill requiring districts to compile income information from customers and the original temperature threshold being set at 90 degrees.
"They settled on using these National Weather Service alerts, which we actually agreed make a lot more sense and would more accurately represent the different health impacts in different areas across the state," Scott said.
“We are still working to understand the implications of what it will be to our operations, but we'll continue to provide that quality reliable service to our customers and make sure that they're able to get the service that they need when they need it,” Vibbert said.
Changes to the bill include specifying the reporting requirements for utilities due to lack of access to info about temperature, and to remove language requiring utility companies to compile data on customer's income.
Customers would also be required to enter into a payment plan before service can be reconnected.