‘Extreme heat poses immediate risks’: Md. commission aims to stop utility terminations until fall

Earlier this week, the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) filed a petition requesting an order to stop utility companies from turning off residential building’s utilities until the end of summer, due to the extreme heat.

Maryland’s commission that regulates public utilities responded on Friday that it would give residents a week, until June 28, to submit feedback on the petition.

The independent state agency represents residential consumers of public utilities, such as electric, natural gas and telecommunications, filed an emergency petition with the Maryland Public Service Commission on June 18.

The OPC petition requests that utility terminations be barred through September 15 or the placement of “strict limits on when a utility may terminate a customer’s service.” It also asks the Maryland Public Service Commission to “temporarily waive fees and deposits for customers who have had their power terminated but wish to reconnect service this summer.”

It said existing protections, which state utility companies can’t shut off electricity to customers if temperatures are at least 95 degrees at 6 a.m., don’t go far enough.

The OPC petition argues that “existing protections against high heat are insufficient” and the heat index, what the temperature actually feels like due to humidity or wind, should be considered for restrictions on terminations.

“Extreme heat poses immediate risks to utility customers facing terminations,” Maryland People’s Counsel David S. Lapp said in a statement.

“Summer hasn’t even started yet, but Maryland is facing triple-digit heat indexes,” Lapp said. “Preventing terminations is vital to protect the health of the most vulnerable, including children, older adults, and low-income households that are disproportionately affected by extreme heat because of poor housing conditions and rising utility rates.”

The Maryland Department of Health said on June 5 that a 59-year-old man in Prince George’s County was the state’s first reported heat-related death of 2024.

The Maryland Public Service Commission said anyone who wishes to submit comments in response to “OPC’s petition and the Commission’s notice” can do so in the docket for Case No. 9745 on its website.

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Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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