Nonpayment disconnections would be banned
U.S. Rep Cori Bush, D-St. Louis, introduced legislation June 3 that would establish a framework to democratize utilities, reduce the country’s reliance on fossil fuels and ban disconnections for nonpayment.
Bush introduced the Public Power Resolution with U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman, D-New York. She told The St. Louis American it seeks to do several things — one being putting the public back in charge of utilities including electricity.
“Why is it that we get to pick and choose who has the right to electricity? You know, electricity is a basic right for everyone,” she said.
“We need transparency in our energy system, we need a system that is racially just, you shouldn't be able to just point to a ZIP code and say this ZIP code has [access] and this ZIP code does not.”
The representatives cited the utility crisis that occurred in Texas as part of the catalyst for this resolution, arguing that while investor-owned utilities are problematic they currently dominate the industry.
In February, Texas suffered a major power crisis, resulting from three severe winter storms sweeping across the United States. A massive electricity generation failure in the state created shortages of water, food and heat.
The resolution calls for funding a “just energy transition for public and coop providers”; make federal energy renewable by requiring federal power providers to become accountable to the public, renewable power utilities; transition from investor-owned power to renewable public power; promote energy democracy and a transparent processes by establishing federal guidelines; and ensure grid resilience and universal access to affordable power by enacting a universal ban on electricity disconnections for nonpayment and enforcing progressive residential electricity rates.
“We need an energy system that is of, by, and for the people — not corporations seeking the largest possible profit,” Bowman said in a media release. “As long as energy is treated as a commodity, not a right, poor people, workers and communities of color will suffer.”
For Bush, this issue is personal. The representative has been open about the struggles in her life — which included living in her car for some time with two small children. Shortly after she moved into a home, she had to make decisions on how to allocate the funds from her $500 weekly paycheck.
“But I had more bills than I had money and I had some other things going on that had to be taken care of,” she said. “So, I wasn't able to pay the gas bill, we put the money for something else and we ended up getting ... our gas [disconnected].”
She went on to say she stationed space heaters throughout her home, until she came home to find an outlet fire had ignited behind her daughter’s bed after her friend warned her of a dream in which Bush’s house was on fire.
“Had I not checked that — it was seven o'clock in the evening — I would have given her a bath, put her in her bed and then that fire could have spread, and she would have been stuck in her bedroom,” Bush said.
Bush said the resolution seeks to reinstate basic utilities as a right to every person and set the stage to make private electricity public — bringing longtime frontline demands to the federal government.
“I know what it's like to be cold and there's not enough blankets that you could put on yourself to make yourself warm, especially on certain days during the winter.”
The resolution is co-sponsored by seven other representatives from across the country and is supported by more than 40 organizations.
The full text of the legislation can be found at https://bit.ly/3chFAPc.