Council member wants Pepco to foot the bill for customers' lodging during outages
A D.C. Council member has introduced a bill that would require Pepco and other utility companies to pay city residents' hotel or motel bills should the lights go out in very cold or hot weather.
Under the proposal by Council member Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4), which was co-sponsored by eight council members, Pepco would have to pay "reasonable hotel costs" to accommodate a resident if the power goes out when its less than 32 degrees in the winter or higher than 95 degrees in the summer.
Bowser conceded her proposal will likely face significant opposition from Pepco and other utility companies, but said its time the city sends the message that recent prolonged outages are not acceptable.
When the power goes out, Bowser argued, many residents are forced to flee their homes for extended periods of time for their own healthy and safety. Both air conditioners and many heaters need electricity to operate, and Bowser said extreme heat or cold can be life-threatening for senior citizens.
"Whether it's a summer storm or a winter storm, the lack of electricity for a sustained period of time is leading to potentially dangerous results for our residents," Bowser said. "Some residents seek alternative shelter, but many don't cause they don't afford to do so, due to prohibitive costs."
Bowser, who represents neighborhoods in the north-central part of the city, said some of her constituents suffered multiple extended power outages over the past year, including last winter's back-to-back blizzards, after a big thunderstorm in late July, and again following a heavy wet snowfall last week.
A Pepco spokesman said company officials would have to review the legislation before they could comment on it.
In another piece of legislation related to the weather, D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr. (D-Ward 5) approved a bill calling on the mayor to study whether the city should empower Advisory Neighborhoods Commissioners to take a role in emergency response.
Thomas said last week's snowstorm proved the city needs more first-responders who can step up during severe storms. He is proposing that ANC commissioners receive training and be given emergency kits so they can help police and firefighters respond to incidents such as downed power lines or trees.
"In my neighborhood, there were power lines hanging across the street last week and police officers were called to come and secure that, but as you know with the magnitude of that snowstorm, it was very difficult to get them there," Thomas said.
If the Gray administration signs off on the plan, ANC commissioners would have access to flares and police tape to rope off intersections or close roads until additional city resources could be deployed.
| February 1, 2011; 12:05 PM ET
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