MN Cold Weather Rule - The Cold Truth

After spending time talking with homeowners and renters regarding the “Cold Weather Rule” in Minnesota, it became apparent there was a need to separate fact from fiction about this law.  This rule sets guidelines as to how one can prevent gas and electric from being disconnected in the event of past due bills.  The rule is in effect in Minnesota from October 15 through April 15 each year.

Minnesota’s harsh winters increase utility bills for everyone and the Cold Weather Rule (CWR) was established to protect the heath and safety of Minnesota citizens.  Any household would become dangerously cold if its utilities were disconnected.  However, households with children and the elderly are even more at risk.

In addition, the CWR was also set up to protect the integrity of household water lines.  If a residence were to have its heating turned off during the winter, the possibility of water line rupture is real. Lower income residents already financially strained would be in a further bind if that were to occur.

So here are some facts about the CWR for you to understand so you can prevent a crisis situation from occurring in the future.

  • Gas and electric CAN be disconnected during the winter.  Therefore communication with your gas and electric provider is important.  You must contact them to apply for protection before disconnection.
  • All natural gas and electric utilities follow some form of CWR.  Delivered fuels like propane or wood are not covered. Before a utility company can disconnect your service during CWR, they must:
  1. Send you a disconnection notice with the date when you may be disconnected.
  2. Provide a list of energy assistance resources.
  3. Outline the appeal process.
  4. List ways to avoid disconnection.
  • To avoid disconnection, make a payment plan with your utility company(ies).  If your household income is at or below 50% of the state median income level, you are not required to pay more than 10% of your household monthly income toward the monthly bill(s).
  • Renters are also eligible for the CWR if the utility service affects your heating source.
  • If you applied for the CWR and still cannot make the payments, contact the utility company(ies) to immediately to set up arrangements.

As you can see, communication is the key to avoiding an inconvenient and potentially dangerous disconnection.  If you find yourself needing help, you can call the Energy Assistance hotline at 1-800-657-3710 or First Call For Help at 211.  In addition, you can use our screening tool to discover programs you may be eligible for to help reduce your energy consumption, or assist during a payment crisis.