It’s hot outside: Time to legislate


Lucas Olivo, 6, does his best to cool down while visiting Yards Park Thursday. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

D.C. Council members Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5) want the council to vote next week on the Heat Wave Safety Emergency Amendment Act of 2012, which would prevent Pepco from disconnecting customers when the heat index is expected to hit 95 degrees or more.

The measure just “makes sense,” McDuffie said. “The extreme heat has negative, possibly deadly consequences.”

It’s all but certain to pass: The council has passed similar emergency measures every summer since 2007 — introduced each time by Cheh, sometimes alone, sometimes with colleagues. She has introduced a permanent bill three times, but it has never emerged from committee.

”Even if it’s one or two or 10 people that could be affected, I think it’s worth it,” she said.

Pepco has opposed such bills in the past. In 2008, the company said it would “serve only to push non-paying customers deeper into debt and eventually shift the burden onto all customers.”

Their main beef was with the method of calculation: With legislation calibrated to a heat index of 95, Pepco argued that disconnections could be halted at Fahrenheit temperatures as low as 85 degrees, making it “the most restrictive disconnection policy in the nation.” The company was OK with an older proposal to halt connections if the actual temperature, not the heat index, is expected to exceed 93 degrees.

Myra Oppel, a Pepco spokeswoman, said the company is withholding comment until it has a chance to review the latest bill.

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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