The Maryland Public Service Commission last month approved a regulation banning power shutoffs due to overdue bills when extreme heat is expected.
Utilities must now consider the three-day forecast before they shut off the power. If the temperature is expected to exceed 95 degrees for 24 of the next 72 hours, then they can’t terminate.
The ban comes as a relief to those who lobbied for the change due to concerns about health and safety of seniors, young children and the chronically ill when the heat rises.
“We felt that that was a reasonable time period to allow people to either run make arrangements for safe living arrangements or to make arrangements for payment,” said Cathy Demeroto, chairwoman of Energy Advocates, a statewide coalition of faith-and mission-based organizations that lobbies for policies to protect low- and moderate-income customers.
“Heat is a major health issue, particularly for elderly persons, and we wanted to make sure if the temperatures were extreme that elderly people would not be facing disconnections,” said Hank Greenberg, advocacy director for AARP Maryland, which supported the ban.
Before the rule change, Maryland utilities could turn off power during any 24-hour period of normal temperatures. In Maryland last year, 80,000 customers were on the verge of utility service shut-off when the state imposed a temporary moratorium.
Source: Maryland Office of People’s Counsel, AARP, newspapers