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Maine Law Bans Utility Shutoffs During Extreme Heat

Climate Change And Global Pollution To Be Discussed At Copenhagen Summit
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En español | A new Maine law backed by AARP will prevent utility companies from shutting off power during times of extreme heat and will eliminate reconnection fees and late charges for those with lower incomes.

While Maine has strong consumer protections against disconnections during the freezing winter months, there are currently no regulations to prevent utilities from cutting power because of missed payments during the summer.

The new law directs the Maine Public Utilities Commission, which regulates electric and gas companies in the state, to create rules that would ban power shutoffs during any “extreme weather or temperature conditions, including extreme heat or humidity.”

Adults over 50 are more likely to experience adverse health effects when temperatures soar.

Without the ability to operate air conditioners or fans, older adults can suffer deadly consequences from extreme heat, AARP Advocacy Director Alf Anderson said in testimony in favor of the law this year.

The growing threat of climate change means even northern states like Maine will experience days with dangerously high temperatures, Anderson said.

The legislation, which Gov. Janet Mills signed into law on March 19, also calls for the commission to establish a threshold of more than $50 for how much a customer can owe on a bill before a utility can disconnect their power, and to set rules that prohibit utilities from charging reconnection or late fees to low-income customers.

“This commonsense legislation will take into account the various realities of one’s life, and not penalize people who are struggling to keep up with basic expenses,” said AARP Maine State Director Noël Bonham. “Finally, older Mainers who live on fixed or limited incomes will not have to worry about not having electricity on very hot days during the summer.”

AARP Maine has spent years pushing for the changes, and our volunteers called, emailed and held meetings with policymakers throughout the legislative session to ensure the bill crossed the finish line.

AARP has helped pass similar bans on summer utility shutoffs in Washington state and Arizona in recent years. We also helped pass a law in New Jersey to give customers who apply for state utility assistance 60 days before their electricity, water and other utilities can be shut off, and we helped secure funding to reduce or eliminate utility debt for low-income residents in New York. The efforts coincide with AARP’s work to ensure utilities remain affordable for older Americans.

Learn more about AARP Maine’s utility wins this year, and find AARP resources to help you prepare for extreme weather.

Natalie Missakian covers federal and state policy and writes AARP's Fighting for You Every Day blog. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Haven Register and daily newspapers in Ohio. She has also written for the AARP Bulletin, the Hartford Business Journal and other publications.

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