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A number of bills currently under consideration in Richmond could change how utilities operate

Dominion
Steve Helber/AP
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AP
FILE - This file photo, shows Dominion Energy's coal fired power plant along the James River in Chester, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

Members of the General Assembly are considering a number of bills that would change how utilities operate.

Water service and electricity and broadband should never be shut off during a weather emergency or a natural disaster according to Delegate Irene Shin – a Democrat from Herndon. She has a bill that was prompted by a situation that happened just as the pandemic was starting.

"If you'll remember, it's May 2020 and we are being told to come home, throw our clothes immediately in the washer, wash our hands and we are wiping down our groceries," Shin says. "And the city of Petersburg turns off water for 180 residents because of delinquent bills. And, it's unfathomable and inhumane to think about people without water, without the ability to wash their hands or shower when they are still uncertain about how the virus is being transmitted."

That’s not the only bill targeting utilities. Another bill is aimed at making sure power companies are more transparent with outages.

"You know, what's happening? How many are happening? Where is the problem located," asks Delegate Charniele Herring, a Democrat from Alexandria who has a bill that would force utilities to share more information about outages.

"It is to enhance transparency with outages, making sure that the public knows what is happening," explains Herring.

Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would prohibit public utilities from making campaign contributions – a bill that might get some traction from a governor who campaigned on a platform of disrupting how entrenched interests do business.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.