Springfield – Attorney General Kwame Raoul today applauded the General Assembly’s passage, with a bi-partisan vote in the Senate, of his legislation to protect vulnerable residents from gas or electric utility service disconnections for nonpayment of bills when temperatures are 90 F or above, or when the National Weather Service issues an excessive heat watch, heat advisory or excessive heat warning.
Raoul initiated House Bill 1541, which was sponsored by Sen. Mattie Hunter and Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado, to amend the Public Utilities Act (PUA). Currently, the PUA prohibits disconnections when the temperature is 95 F or hotter. However, it does not account for extreme heat events when the heat index may rise to a dangerous level when temperatures are below 95 F.
“I initiated this legislation to better protect the health and safety of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents during extreme heat by taking dangerously high humidity into account. The summer months in Illinois are not the time to put lives at risk by disconnecting electric and gas utilities service for nonpayment,” Raoul said. “Too many Illinois residents die in heat waves, and this legislation can help prevent fatalities. I am pleased the Legislature has passed this measure, and I look forward to the governor signing it into law.”
"I am pleased to see House Bill 1541 pass through the General Assembly as it will provide critical protections for vulnerable populations, including disproportionately impacted communities of color, during dangerously hot temperatures,” Hunter said. “By prohibiting utility shutoffs on days with extreme heat, we can ensure families are not put in life-threatening situations just because they are struggling to pay their bills.”
“Access to electricity is a basic necessity, especially during times when temperatures soar. With climate change causing more frequent and intense heat waves, this legislation recognizes the urgent need to protect vulnerable individuals who rely on electricity for cooling and medical purposes,” Delgado said. “For that reason, I was pleased to work with Attorney General Raoul to pass House Bill 1541 out of the House with an overwhelming majority and am excited that it passed out Senate committee on its way to becoming law."
According to the Attorney General’s office, the current protections in the PUA are insufficient to protect the most vulnerable Illinois residents, such as older adults, very young children, people with chronic conditions like high blood pressure, and residents who lack access to air conditioning or fear high electric bills if they use air conditioning.
Raoul’s office points out that to accurately assess the danger of heat, both humidity and temperature must be considered. For example, a temperature of 92 F at 100% humidity can be dangerously hot, while higher temperatures may be less dangerous when the humidity is low.
From May to September of 2022, there were only five days in Illinois when temperatures rose above 95 F. Over the course of this same time period, however, three elderly residents died from heat exhaustion on a day when the temperature was only 92 F.
Compliance reports utility companies are required to file with the Illinois Commerce Commission show that between June and September 2022, one utility disconnected 136,363 residential customers from electric service and another utility disconnected 26,288 residential customers - both for non-payment.