Press Releases

DelBene, Blunt Rochester Introduce Legislation to Protect Families from Utility Shutoffs During Extreme Weather Events

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WASHINGTON, DC, November 15, 2022 | comments

Today, Congresswomen Suzan DelBene (WA-01) and Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-At-Large) introduced the Preventing Unnecessary Deaths During Life-Threatening Events (PUDDLE) Act to protect families from having their electricity shut off during extreme weather events like heat waves and cold snaps.

The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) prohibits electric utilities from shutting off home electricity for overdue bills when doing so would be dangerous for someone’s health. This legislation would clarify that extreme hot and cold weather events are covered by PURPA.

Currently, 19 states have shutoff moratoriums for both cold and hot weather, 22 states have only cold weather shutoff moratoriums, including Washington state, and 9 states have neither. This bill would ensure that all states have these life-saving utility shutoff protections.

Washington state has seen increased instances of extreme weather in recent years. 157 people died in the 2021 heat wave, called the deadliest weather-related event in state history.

“As extreme weather events across America are becoming more frequent and severe, we must protect families from having their electricity shut off during these dangerous incidents,” said DelBene. “Right now, only 19 states currently have these protections for both cold and heat, and Washington only has protections for cold weather. This legislation will help ensure families in every state have these lifesaving protections.”

“We know that one of the most frightening scenarios that families across the United States can experience is having their utilities shut off in the face of extreme weather events. As these events become more severe and more frequent - Congress must step up to help protect American families from the dangers of those potential shutoffs,” said Blunt Rochester. “That’s why I’m proud to partner with Rep. DelBene to introduce this vital legislation that creates shutoff moratoriums for both cold and hot weather, protecting families in Delaware and across the country.”

This legislation would be especially beneficial for minority communities, who are disproportionately impacted by utility shutoffs. Black households are twice as likely as white households to face utility shutoffs.

Currently, over one in six households – more than 20 million families – are behind on their utility bills.

This legislation is supported by 27 organizations, including the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Natural Resources Defense Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Food and Water Watch, El Centro de la Raza, Statewide Poverty Action Network, and the Washington Build Back Black Alliance.

“The additional protections against rising summer temperatures contained in this bill are long overdue and will help to protect some of the nation’s most vulnerable households,” said Mark Wolfe, Executive Director of National Energy Assistance Directors Association. “These protections are especially important now that we’ve had two years of back to back record summer temperatures and all signs point to continued heat waves into the future placing families who can’t afford the cost of energy at risk if shut-off.”

A summary of the bill can be found here and the text can be found here.

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