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Powerless in the Pandemic: After Bailouts, Electric Utilities Chose Profits Over People

Powerless in the Pandemic: After Bailouts, Electric Utilities Chose Profits Over People

Full Title: Powerless in the Pandemic: After Bailouts, Electric Utilities Chose Profits Over People
Author(s): Jean Su, Christopher Kuveke
Publisher(s): Center for Biological Diversity, BailoutWatch
Publication Date: October 4, 2021
Full Text: Download Resource
Description (excerpt):

Already a national embarrassment, the practice of disconnecting household electric service for unpaid bills (“utility shutoffs”) became a lethal threat to poor families last year after Covid-19 hit. By rendering homes uninhabitable, electric companies made social distancing impossible and increased transience, leading to higher infection and death rates, according to recent research. While brushing off calls to pause their punitive collections practices, electric utilities used their political power to secure bailouts that cost taxpayers $1.25 billion, cushioning them from the pandemic economy. The harm caused by electric shutoffs is indisputable. Less discussed is the nexus of utilities’ political influence, predatory collection tactics and climate impacts.


Utilities are a massive, sometimes overlooked contributor to the climate emergency.
While oil and gas giants garner more attention for their role in causing climate change, the electric industry is also culpable. Utilities were responsible for 32% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, mostly from gas- and coal-burning plants. The biggest utilities operate their own fossil fuel infrastructure to supply these dirty power plants. At the same time, their profits-over-people collections practices heap further harm onto the poor communities and communities of color already suffering disproportionate climate harm and energy burdens.

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