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Municipalities, co-ops not required to follow cold weather rule

Since 1977, the cold weather rule has prohibited utility providers from shutting off someone’s power when the temperature is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are exceptions to the rule that technically leave some residents without the state law’s protection.

Municipalities, electric cooperatives, and certain utility providers are exceptions, and do not have to follow the cold weather rule if a customer falls behind on payments.

“We do have the rights and we would disconnect them if it’s below 32 degrees,” said Thomas Howard, CEO of the Callaway County Electric Cooperative. “But certainly we try not to be inhumane. Our goal is to keep the lights on.”

Some of those providers offer options for customers to help keep their power and heat on.

The city of Columbia’s Water & Light department, for example, follows a city ordinance that is extremely similar to the state rule. The Callaway County Co-Op offers payment plans to residents to help manage their bills.

“If members maintain contact with us and make some minimum amount of payment, we do our best to follow the cold weather rule,” Howard said.

For a list of warming shelters in Columbia, click here.

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