LOS ANGELES (JUNE 27, 2023) – Los Angeles is no stranger to hot weather. Woodland Hills set an all-time high record of 121-degrees three years ago. L.A.’s hottest days of the summer season are mere weeks away. If what Texas is experiencing in June in terms of unexpected extreme heat is any indication, Angelenos need all the protection they can get as heat storms ramp up and push temperatures above 100 degrees well into September.
The motion approved today by the Los Angeles Board of Water and Power Commissioners is critically important and will help save lives. The motion directs the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) to suspend collections-related water and power shutoffs for ALL customers during extreme heat and cold weather events. Under this new policy, when the National Weather Service (NWS) issues an extreme heat or cold weather advisory or warning, LADWP will not shut a customer’s water or power off if they are delinquent on their bill.
The approval of the motion positions the City and LADWP to be empathetic and health-aware ahead of our coming heatwaves to help our customers throughout our city stay cool during our hottest days of the year.
“All Angelenos — especially those who depend on AC for their health and medical needs — need protection from the heat and cold,” said Mayor Karen Bass. “As warming trends continue, we need to work together to protect our most vulnerable from extreme temperatures. I thank the Board for enacting this policy to safeguard our families.”
The newly approved policy extends LADWP’s continued commitment to the protection of health and safety for all LADWP customers, particularly vulnerable residents such as senior citizens, infants, young children, persons with acute medical needs and low-income customers. The Board’s action directs the Department to adopt the issuance of local NWS alerts (e.g., Heat Advisory, Excessive Heat Watch, and Excessive Heat Warning during excessive heat events; and corresponding alerts for extreme cold/frost/freezing extreme weather events) to serve as the department’s official trigger to suspend customer utility shutoffs for bill non-payment.
L.A. Board of Water and Power Commissioners President Cynthia McClain-Hill said, “During extreme heat and cold, Angelenos shouldn’t fear that their water or electric service will be disconnected because they couldn’t afford to pay their utility bill. As we focus on ‘Leading with Equity’ we have prioritized working with our customers to help them manage their bills, while also beating the heat by offering generous extended payment plans, connecting our low-income customers to assistance programs and offering rebates for portable and window air conditioners that can help them keep their families cool during the hottest summer months. I thank my Board colleagues for their support for our expanded weather-related policy that bolsters our department’s commitment to effective equity strategies.”
The new policy is a significant change from the Department’s previous practice, which suspended shutoffs for non-payment when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees. By using NWS alerts, the policy considers other weather-related health risk factors such as heat duration and high overnight temperatures, as well as cold-weather factors during winter months.
“The DWP Board’s decision to end utility shutoffs during extreme weather events is a crucial and exciting step forward to protecting the health of our communities in a rapidly changing climate,” said Lauren Ahkiam, Climate Campaign Co-Director, LAANE. “Residents shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and having life-saving temperature controls and water access.”
The new policy builds on action taken by the Board in November 2022, when the Board adopted a motion that provides shutoff protection for customers enrolled in LADWP’s EZ-SAVE program – which offers a discount to low-income and elderly customers as well as those with disabilities, to help reduce the cost of power and water services. With the Board’s approval of the new motion, an additional public health measure will now be in place, effective immediately, ensuring all Angelenos equitable access to critical water and essential power services during summer and winter extreme weather conditions.
The motion also directed LADWP staff to install weather monitors in LA’s “urban heat islands” across LADWP’s service area, neighborhoods where weather data gaps exist, to help improve NWS’s ability to better measure and forecast weather conditions, including whether to issue a heat advisory.
Today’s vote to approve the motion is the latest action on the part of the Board to further strengthen LADWP’s Cool LA initiative designed to help customers better manage the impacts of extreme heat caused by climate change. Cool LA includes a key program to help Angelenos beat the heat by providing up-to $225 rebates for income-qualified residents to purchase portable room air conditioners, as well as other air conditioning rebates for all customers.
LADWP will continue to make equity and access a part of its mission with its energy- and water-conservation rebates and financial assistance programs including long-term payment plans and Level Pay, to help customers better manage their utility bills and save water, power and money in the process.
STATEMENTS BY SUPPORTERS:
The DWP Board’s decision to end utility shutoffs during extreme weather events is a crucial and exciting step forward to protecting the health of our communities in a rapidly changing climate. Residents shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and having life-saving temperature controls and water access. Thanks to community advocates, President McClain Hill and the DWP Board and staff. We look forward to working together on this policy and other crucial measures like direct to customer efficiency programs, union job pathways, and other equity strategies.
– Lauren Ahkiam, Climate Campaign Co-Director, LAANE
Grassroots leaders across South LA, Harbor, and Northeast San Fernando Valley were the driving force behind last November’s motion to discontinue shutoffs for thousands of Angelenos, develop extreme weather shutoff protections, and help realize a human right to water and power. Today’s vote represents the ongoing work of LADWP, Board President McClain-Hill, and community-based organizations to ensure access to lifesaving utilities during severe weather conditions, in addition to addressing gaps that fail to account for urban heat islands in historically redlined neighborhoods. SCOPE hopes to see comprehensive protections and lower temperature thresholds that recognize the human health impacts of wildfire smoke, unhealthy air quality, and increasing climate and housing crisis. We look forward to continuing to work with LADWP on pathways to debt relief, phasing out shutoffs, and long-term affordability. Today’s vote is a huge win for frontline communities!
– Agustin Cabrera, Policy Director, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE)