Texas law stops water service disconnects during extreme cold weather

New rules have been adopted prohibiting non-municipal public water and sewer utilities from disconnecting customers during extreme cold weather emergencies.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas's new rules mean those utilities cannot disconnect service or issue late fees for nonpayment of bills due during such emergencies, including for bills previously due.

By rule, extreme cold weather emergencies are periods beginning when the previous day’s highest temperature in an area did not exceed 28 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours according to the nearest National Weather Service reports for that area.  

For purposes of these rules, the PUCT says an extreme weather emergency ends on the second business day the temperature exceeds 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Under the new rules, affected customers have a 30-day window to request a payment schedule. If a customer makes a request within those 30 days, the service provider must offer them a payment schedule, says the PUCT.  All non-municipal water and sewer utilities are required to notify their customers of these new rules by January 31, 2023.

The new rules are required under Senate Bill 3, passed by the 87th Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

SB 3 was one of two passed and signed into law in an effort to rebuild trust in the state’s power grid after the winter storm in February 2021. The weather event shut down power plants across Texas and the sub-zero temperatures claimed more than a hundred lives.