SPRINGFIELD – As temperatures continue to rise this week, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation to provide a safeguard for Illinois consumers, particularly seniors, by prohibiting power companies from shutting off utilities when temperatures reach 95 degrees or higher. House Bill 5086, sponsored by State Representative Robert F. Flider (D-Decatur) and State Senator Mike Jacobs (D-Moline), passed unanimously in both chambers and includes holidays and weekends. State law currently prohibits utilities from shutting off service during cold winter months, but fails to protect consumers during heat waves, which can prove to be just as dangerous to older adults.
“During tough economic times, many people - especially seniors, families with children and other vulnerable residents - could face having their power shut off during extremely hot weather. By signing this law, I am refusing to let that happen,” said Governor Blagojevich. “As the temperatures continue to rise this summer, staying cool is not just a matter of comfort; in some cases it can be a matter of life and death.”
This no cut-off requirement applies to gas or electricity when it is the sole power source for the air conditioning in the residence. It will cover all public utilities in Illinois, with the exception of Mid-America in the Quad Cities, which already has a no cut-off policy when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees, and Mount Carmel Public Utility Co., a smaller Downstate provider. HB 5086 becomes effective immediately.
"This law will protect many of our State's most vulnerable citizens from extreme heat. I'm pleased we could come together to get this done," Sen. Mike Jacobs (D- Moline).
“As we celebrate our seniors, we need to find ways to make sure they’re taken care of and protected from harm,” said Illinois Department on Aging Director Charles D. Johnson. “This bill helps to do that. We have a law to protect people when it’s extremely cold. It makes sense to also have a law that protects when temperatures get too hot.”
“Soaring utility costs are leaving many Illinoisans struggling to keep pace with high electric bills – history has shown that for older people, having their electricity shut off in the summer heat can be fatal,” said Bob Gallo, AARP Illinois State Director. “AARP commends Governor Blagojevich for delivering a new law to protect Illinoisans who are facing hard times and hard choices when it comes to affording their electricity.”
“We applaud the Governor and the General Assembly for making this most important legislation a reality. Now, in the heat of summer, as Illinois faces record-high energy prices, we can’t afford to leave senior citizens at risk of losing such a necessity as air conditioning when they need it most. While there is more work to be done, HB 5086 continues to move Illinois energy policy in a consumer-friendly direction,” says Executive Director David Kolata of the Citizens Utility Board.
Cut-offs during extreme heat put people at risk of heat related illnesses, especially seniors. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur when someone is exposed to heat, even if a person is just sitting or lying in the heat for too long. Heat stroke can be fatal and should be considered a medical emergency. Every year in Illinois, there are heat-related deaths of seniors, age 60 years and older. In 2002, there were seven heat related deaths among seniors. In 2003 there were two, in 2004 there was one, and in 2005 there were three. According to the AARP Web site, heat exposure causes more deaths in the United States than hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods, and earthquakes combined - making the protections critical.
Earlier this summer, Governor Blagojevich launched the 2008 Keep Cool campaign to help
all Illinoisans – especially older adults, families with small children and other vulnerable residents – stay cool, healthy and safe this summer. For more information, visit www.keepcool.illinois.gov.