New law protects Virginians against utility shut-offs during extreme heat

June 28, 2024

Dan Radmacher, Media Specialist, (540) 798-6683,
Connie Stevens, Virginia Poverty Law Center, (540) 354-8597,

As heat waves roll through Virginia, a new law to protect residents from unsafe utility shut-offs during periods of extreme weather goes into effect on July 1. Sen. Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg) and Del. Irene Shin (D-Herndon) introduced a pair of bills to the General Assembly in January. The bills gained bipartisan support and were signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin.

The new law prevents Virginia utilities from shutting off service to a customer:

    • when temperatures are at/below 32°F or at/above 92°F
    • on Fridays, weekends, state holidays or on the day before a state holiday
    • during a state of emergency declared by the governor in response to a public health emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic

Access to essential utilities like power and water during extreme heat can be a matter of life or death, especially for Virginia’s most vulnerable residents.

“Passage of the Emergency Utilities Protection Act ensures that essential utility services remain a right, not a privilege, during the moments when they are needed most,” said Del. Shin.

Additionally, the legislation creates more consistent standards for all utilities across the state by requiring them to make their shutoff policies publicly available, provide notices in English and Spanish, and in certain cases, limit deposit requirements for customers who have received state energy assistance in the past 12 months. The legislation also prevents utilities from shutting off service to residents before the account is 60 days past due for customers of utilities regulated by the State Corporation Commission, or 45 days past due for municipal utility customers.

“In 2021, I passed HJ 538 declaring access to water a human right – as a result of the disconnections that were occurring in my community during the pandemic,” said Sen. Aird. “This legislation is an increased protection for all families to ensure Virginians have access to essential utilities when it is needed most. I’m proud that because of this legislation, we can ensure that no family has to suffer through disconnections from essential utilities when access to them is most critical.”

The legislation received support from a diverse group of advocates, including Virginia Poverty Law Center,
Virginia Organizing, Appalachian Voices, New Virginia Majority, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and Clean Virginia.

“This legislation is long overdue. As utility costs continue to increase, more and more customers are at risk of losing access to essential utilities because they can’t afford to pay,” said Kajsa Foskey of VPLC. “With the increased frequency of extreme temperatures, shutting people off cannot be the answer, especially when consequences can be deadly.”