OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced that he and Sen. Joe Nguyen, D-White Center, will propose legislation in the 2023 legislative session to ensure a utility company cannot shut off Washingtonians’ power or water if the temperature is 95 degrees or higher. Nineteen other states have similar protections in place.
The legislation protects all Washingtonians’ access to electric fans, working refrigerators and running water during extreme heat, as well as air conditioning for residents with access.
Washington has experienced back-to-back record-breaking heat waves. The 2021 heat wave was the deadliest weather-related event in Washington state history, claiming 157 lives, according to the state Department of Health.
In 2021, record-setting temperatures were marked in Seattle (108 degrees), Spokane (109 degrees), Yakima (113 degrees), Pullman (106 degrees), Walla Walla (117 degrees), Moses Lake (114 degrees) and Omak (117 degrees). Global climate change will continue causing longer, hotter, and more volatile summers in Washington. These extreme weather events disproportionately harm vulnerable and oppressed communities.
This summer, the Seattle area set a new record at the end of July of six consecutive days with temperatures over 90 degrees. Highs in Eastern Washington reached approximately 110 degrees during that time, as well. The heat led to the deaths of at least 10 Washingtonians and caused hundreds more to seek medical care.
“Access to running water and electricity can be a matter of life and death during extreme heat,” Ferguson said. “Washingtonians should not suffer and die because they miss a payment on a utility bill. We can improve public safety by adopting this common sense reform already in effect in red, blue and purple states across the country.”
“In a time when we are experiencing climate crisis with extreme heat and smoke, we need to ensure that we have basic provisions to protect our most vulnerable populations,” said Sen. Nguyen.