How hot is it in Houston these days?
“It is hot out there.”
That’s state lawmaker Sylvester Turner who may be feeling a sense of deja vu. Last summer Turner squabbled with the utility companies after he got reports from people in the 139th district that they were getting abnormally large electricity bills they couldn’t afford and either had their power disconnected, or were worried about it. Now he’s back at, filing a petition with the public utility commission to make sure power stays on during the summer.
“Now, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have to pay anything at any point and time. All it simply says is that if you are a senior citizen and a critical care customer, you don’t have to worry about it you can start on a deferred payment plan as of October one. If you are a low income customer you have to pay a third of the bill right now.”
Remember how bad it was going without power after hurricane Ike? Turner says the elderly and low income shouldn’t have to face that. Many companies like Reliant already have summer programs to help those customers with payments. They’ve voluntarily promised not to cut off their power. This is Reliant’s Patricia Hammond:
“We have done this on a voluntary basis and we have really supported any programs that are helpful to our low income customers and to seniors.”
Turner tried to pass a law in this past legislative session that would have prevented companies from cutting off the power to critical care customers. But that bill died in the legislature. So he’s doing what he’s done the past few summers, asking for them to pass a moratorium that’s good for the summer.
“We’ve already experienced a heat-related death. It wasn’t because the power was turned off, the air conditioning unit for this particular gentleman wasn’t working, but the effect and symbolism is the same. And that is that there are thousands of senior citizens who are more fearful of their electricity bill than they are of turning utilizing their electricity, their ac units and we need to take that off the table.”
Reliant supported the effort to turn this into a state law but Turner expects the energy industry as a whole to fight his latest petition.
Bill Stamps KUHF Houston Public Radio News.