State Rep. Sylvester Turner has called upon Texas regulators to adopt emergency rules that would protect electric customers against disconnections during the dog days of summer.

In a petition filed before the Texas Public Utility Commission, the Houston lawmaker has proposed a ban on electricity disconnections in any area in which the heat index is forecast to hit 105 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

The move comes just as Texas cities begin to wilt under sweltering high temperatures. In Houston, for example, the high was 101 degrees on Wednesday – but with 40 percent relative humidity. According to a National Weather Servicetable, that would place the heat index in the Bayou City at between 109 and 114 degrees.

The petition calls upon the PUC to set up rules that would require electric companies to keep the power flowing during the hottest months, but also to set up payment plans for customers who fall behind on their bills. The proposed rules are modeled on legislation that Turner and others unsuccessfully attempted to pass during the 81st Legislative Session, which ended June 1.

“Summer is here and record temperatures are being set across the State — we can not afford to take this dire situation lightly,” said Rep. Turner. “That is why I filed the petition so quickly and that is why I strongly urge the Commissioners at the PUC to set an emergency meeting and take up the issue immediately.”

AARP-Texas and several other consumer groups have joined the petition. “While AARP continues to urge the Texas Legislature to fix the problem permanently, we ask the PUC to do the responsible thing and protect the lives and health of many citizens who are at increased risk this summer,” said AARP state director Bob Jackson.

The PUC likely will consider Turner’s petition during its July 2nd meeting.

–R.A. Dyer