Public editor

Can heat really be shut off in the cold?

Updated: 2014-02-09T01:26:53Z

By Derek Donovan

The Kansas City Star

I heard from a number of readers today who were concerned by the sitation that the subjects of a story on the front page found themselves in. The Keslers of Kansas City are in a house whose utilities have been shut off for months.

“I was under the impression that it is illegal for the gas companies to shut off someone’s heat in the wintertime,” said one caller. “How can these people be treated like that, even if they haven’t paid?”

The answer lies in the specifics of the Missouri Cold Weather Rule.

No, utilities can’t shut off service when the temperature is forecast to dip below freezing. However, this family’s had been shut off for months. The law doesn’t require that they be restored with the cold. It would have been a good idea for the story to mention this, as I don’t think it’s necessarily obvious.

Incidentally, this is another example of the immense compassion that Star readers often display when speaking with me. While I can’t recommend specific charities, I do send people to the United Way of Greater Kansas City for ways to help.

To reach Derek Donovan, call 816-234-4487 weekday mornings or send email to Follow him at

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