OPINION

In cold weather, consumers who can't pay their bills are protected from losing power. Consider the same for heat.

By The Editorial Advisory Board
With temperatures soaring, it's time to consider a ban preventing utility companies from turning off power on excessive heat days.

It’s hot outside.

How hot is it?

Hot enough to make us rethink what it means to use energy during these warm months.

Earlier this year, as Kansas suffered through a wave of freezing temperatures, we were all asked to conserve energy. A few of us endured rolling blackouts.

And those of us who might not be able to pay our utility bills didn’t have to worry about our power being cut.

Why? Because the Kansas Corporation Commission has a rule forbidding power companies from doing so from Nov. 1 to March 1.

The rule encourages customers to take action too — calling their utility and paying a certain amount or setting up a payment plan. Overall, though, it recognizes that nobody wins without power during extreme temperatures.

How might this affect the situation in Kansas today?

Simple. When the mercury remains at or near 100 degrees for multiple days in a row, it’s a public health threat. We shouldn’t be putting folks at risk by potentially ending their electric service. In other words, we need a hot weather rule.

It needn’t be complicated. A time window — like the cold weather rule — and a temperature threshold could be chosen. Surely all of us could agree that it’s just good sense to spare vulnerable Kansans these brutal summer heat waves?

We wouldn’t be alone in this, either.

In fact, our neighbor to the east already has a law that does just this. That’s right, the Missouri Public Service Commission has a Hot Weather Law to protect their public. Kansas officials should take a look and follow their lead.

Listen, we know that public officials in our state may not be in the mood for talking about more public benefits. But here’s the thing. We’ve watched for more than a year as Kansans from all walks of life struggled to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve seen how close to the edge many of us live — through no fault of our own.

We also saw demonstrated in real time how the government can make people’s lives better. The relief packages from Washington, D.C., made a tangible difference in the lives of so many. It’s clear that, ideological gripes aside, that programs helping people work.

In this context, a modest rule preventing power shutoffs during brutal heat seems like a no-brainer.