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Power Shutdowns on Hottest Days Could Be Illegal in D.C.

The bill was crafted to protect people from blazing temperatures, even when they are behind on their bills.

By: Mark Segraves |

Energy companies are barred from shutting down D.C. residents’ power on the coldest days of the year — and may soon be barred from turning off service on the hottest days as well.

D.C. Council will vote Tuesday on a bill that would prohibit utility companies from turning off any resident’s electricity because they’re behind on payments when the temperature is expected to hit 95 degrees or hotter.

“The idea is in a heat wave above 95 degrees that there’s a greater risk to human life and therefore the electricity can’t be cut off,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson told News4.

In May, temperatures hit 90 degrees on seven days, which is a record for the area.

In D.C., utility companies can’t shut down service when it’s 32 degrees or colder. In Maryland, companies can’t shut down service on days when it’s 95 degrees or hotter, or 32 degrees or colder. And Virginia has no restrictions on when companies can shut down service to customers who are behind on payments.

The D.C. Council passes similar emergency legislation every year, but this law would make the rule permanent, and would be subject to Congressional review and public hearings.

Pepco staff said in a statement that the company does not cut service when temperatures are close to 100 degrees.

“Pepco will not disconnect residential electric service during the day preceding, and the day of, a forecast of extreme temperature,” the statement said. “Forecast of extreme temperature means a National Weather Service forecast that the heat index for the District of Columbia will be 95 degrees Fahrenheit or above at any time during a day.”