AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Thursday, Texas passed a rule that prohibits non-municipal water and sewer utilities from disconnecting customers during extremely cold weather emergencies.
This means that these utilities cannot issue late fees for unpaid bills due during such emergencies, including bills that were previously due.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas defines extreme cold weather emergencies as periods beginning when the highest temperature the previous day in an area did not exceed 28 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature is expected to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours. The emergency period ends on the second business day when the temperature exceeds 28 degrees Fahrenheit.
Under the new rules, affected customers have 30 days to request a payment schedule. If a client makes a request within these 30 days, the service provider must offer him a payment schedule.
The new rules are the result of Texas Senate Bill 3, which passed in 2021 after February’s winter storm made history for its unprecedented power outages, water loss and temperatures below the freezing point.
“The new rules prioritize the health and safety of Texans during extreme cold weather emergencies,” PUCT Chairman Peter Lake said. “It means Texans can focus on keeping their families safe in extreme cold weather and working with their water or sewer utility to make sure they pay their bills on time.”
All non-municipal water and sewer utilities are required to notify their customers of these new rules by January 31, 2023.