Legislation will ensure power, water will remain connected during National Weather Service heat warnings
OLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bill Attorney General Bob Ferguson partnered on with Rep. Sharlett Mena, D-Tacoma, to ensure a utility operator cannot shut off Washingtonians’ power or water when the National Weather Service issues a heat-related warning or alert.
The bill, House Bill 1329, does not relieve Washingtonians of their obligation to pay their utility bills. It protects human health and safety by preventing electricity shutoffs for failure to pay during extreme heat. It does not prohibit utilities from shutting off power to prevent or mitigate damage from forest fires.
It passed the Senate on April 10 with a 29-20 vote. The House passed the bill with a bipartisan 64-31 vote in late February.
Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, sponsored a companion bill in the senate.
“This will provide a tangible, important, life-saving benefit to Washingtonians,” Ferguson said.
“Extreme heat is risky for seniors, people with disabilities, folks who work outside, and anyone who can’t afford their utility bill;” Rep. Mena said. “Power and water can be a matter of life and death during a heat wave. This legislation will ensure that every Washingtonian has the ability to protect themselves against extreme heat.”
The bill places a moratorium on utility shutoffs for inability to pay during a Weather Service heat-related warning or alert. The legislation protects all Washingtonians’ access to electric fans, working refrigerators and running water during extreme heat, as well as air conditioning for residents with access.
Washington has experienced back-to-back record-breaking heat waves. In 2021, record-setting temperatures were marked in Seattle (108 degrees), Spokane (109 degrees), Yakima (113 degrees), Pullman (106 degrees), Walla Walla (117 degrees), Moses Lake (114 degrees) and Omak (117 degrees). Global climate change will continue causing longer, hotter, and more volatile summers in Washington. These extreme weather events disproportionately harm vulnerable and oppressed communities.
The 2021 heat wave was the deadliest weather-related event in Washington state history, claiming 157 lives, according to the state Department of Health. The 2021 heat wave disproportionately harmed Black, Indigenous and Pacific Islander communities according to the Department of Health’s heat-related death data.
Nineteen other states have similar protections in place.
Washington’s Attorney General serves the people and the state of Washington. As the state’s largest law firm, the Attorney General’s Office provides legal representation to every state agency, board, and commission in Washington. Additionally, the Office serves the people directly by enforcing consumer protection, civil rights, and environmental protection laws. The Office also prosecutes elder abuse, Medicaid fraud, and handles sexually violent predator cases in 38 of Washington’s 39 counties. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.firstname.lastname@example.org
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