Representatives Tlaib, Bush, Bowman Introduce Resolution Recognizing Access to Utilities as a Human Right

Washington D.C. (September 16, 2022) – This week, Representatives Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Cori Bush (MO-01) andJamaal Bowman Ed.D (NY-16) introduced the Resolution Recognizing the Human Rights to Utilities, which would recognize access to water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit, and broadband communications as basic human rights and public services that must be accessible, safe, acceptable, sufficient, affordable, justly sourced and sustainable, climate resilient, and reliable for every person.

“Utilities are the foundation we build our lives upon. We need water to drink and bathe, electricity and broadband to connect with each other and the world, heat to survive our increasingly harsh winters, and transportation to link us to opportunity and our communities. In the richest country the world has ever known, it is an outrage that millions of Americans struggle with utility insecurity, substandard and dangerous services, and inhumane shutoffs. I am proud to stand with Representatives Bush, Bowman, and our colleagues in the House in recognizing that access to affordable, reliable utilities is a human right. It’s time to change the conversation around what we all deserve, take the profit motive out of providing the basics of a good life, and give every American the opportunity to thrive,” said Congresswoman Tlaib.

“A person should never be forced to choose between electricity or heat during the winter. A person should never have their only option for water be water that is not properly sanitized. A person should never have to wait in a restaurant parking lot to get Wi-Fi to finish their homework or pay their bills. None of us should ever have to struggle to survive because we cannot afford these basic necessities. I am proud to introduce this resolution alongside Congressman Bowman and Congresswoman Tlaib to formally recognize utilities as what they are: a human right,”said Congresswoman Bush. 

“Having access to utilities like water, sanitation, energy and broadband is a matter of life and death,” said Congressman Bowman. “In my district and across our country, millions of people do not have access to these basic human rights, struggle to pay their utility bills as costs rise, and suffer from failing utility infrastructure systems. This in conjunction with the privatization of our utilities has caused major gaps of equity and access leading to increased health concerns, different standards of living including uninhabitable conditions, and exacerbated struggles for survival. From Jackson, MS to New York’s 16th Congressional District, Black people do not have access to clean water, are disproportionately energy burdened, and are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis. This resolution will recognize utilities as a basic human right, ban the destructive practice of privatizing our utilities, and promote public power. We cannot thrive as a nation and as a people until all have safe, accessible, reliable and climate conscious utility rights.”

A copy of the resolution can be found HERE.

Additional co-sponsors of this resolution include Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), Barbara Lee (CA-13), Ayanna Pressley (MA-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Andre Carson, and Jan Schakowsky (IL-09).

This resolution is endorsed by: Action Center on Race and the Economy, BIG! Blacks in Green, Center for Biological Diversity, Corporate Accountability, Food & Water Watch, Free Press Action, Friends of the Earth US, Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy, MediaJustice, NTEN, Open MIC, PolicyLink, RapidShift Network, SumOfUs, Sunrise Movement, The Democracy Collaborative, The People’s Justice Council, Unitarian Universalist Association, and more than 200 other organizations.  See a full list of organizational endorsements HERE.

“This resolution puts families’ health and safety before corporate utility profits and shareholder dividends,”said Gaby Sarri-Tobar with the Center for Biological Diversity. “People are being squeezed by rising bills and the threat of disconnections because of volatile oil and gas prices. This is a matter of life and death for many households, so it’s ludicrous that wealthy utilities can single-handedly cut off basic human rights like electricity, water and broadband. The Inflation Reduction Act pours more money into fossil-fuel utilities to transition to renewable energy, but Congress needs to protect energy-poor communities from inhumane utility behavior.”

“Water, sanitation and other essential utilities are basic human rights that should never be denied to a person,” said Mary Grant, the Public Water for All Campaign Director with Food & Water Watch. “We applaud Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman for their leadership on this resolution. It is long past time for Congress to recognize these essential human rights and to commit to protect people from privatization and violent collection practices. Access to utilities is essential to life and living a life with dignity.”

“Equitable access to affordable and reliable high-speed internet, power and water are a necessity in 2022,” said Heather Franklin, Campaign Manager for Free Press Action. “At a time of compounding existential crises, no one — no matter who they are or where they live — should have to worry about their ability to call for help, communicate with their loved ones, or safely turn on the lights or faucet. We thank Reps. Bush, Bowman and Tlaib for their leadership on these issues and for putting people first.”

“In the 21st, century, this resolution is the basis that will allow us to achieve the goals stated in the USA constitution, to ‘form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.’ Thank you, Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for making sure such fundamental rights are granted to all individuals,” said María Celeste Delgado-Librero, Founder & Board President, Sustainable Roanoke.

“We at Climable believe that the basic human necessities of electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband should be treated as such,”said Jen Stevenson Zepeda from Climable. “Ensuring people have reliable access to each is the right and equitable thing to do. We are so pleased to see this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and applaud this effort to put people first.”

“The Coalition of Community Organizations (COCO) mission is grounded in equitable access to basic human necessities of electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband,” said Reverend James L Caldwell. “Poverty affects health by limiting access to proper nutrition and healthy foods; shelter; safe neighborhoods to learn, live, and work; clean air and water; utilities; and other elements that define an individual’s  standard of living. Individuals who live in low-income or high-poverty neighborhoods are likely to experience poor health due to a combination of these factors. (AAFP, 2021) As Texans we continue to struggle with the weight of an ineffective and burdensome power grid; therefore, COCO is supportive of this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and applaud this effort to put people first.”

“The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore is in full support of the passage of this Bill to make electricity, water, sanitation, public transport, and broadband a basic human necessity and right,” said the Rev. Dr. Alvin Gwynn Sr, President of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance of Baltimore. “The burden and expense should not be placed upon those alone who cannot afford it”

“In light of the crises that grip the world, causing despair among millions of Americans, we encourage the Congress to pass the resolution by Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman,” said Doumafis Lafontan. “Indeed, we think such a resolution is a step in the direction to alleviate the exorbitant cost of living, which the unemployed, underemployed, working poor, and middle class can no longer afford. So, we are joining hands with the initiators of this resolution, expecting its passage will lead to a better future for all Americans.”

“Access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water and sanitation is a human right — one that we’ve recognized in California for almost a decade,” said Susana De Anda, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Community Water Center. “It is critical that we also recognize and affirm these rights at the federal level so that we can prioritize solutions to this water and sanitation crisis with the urgency all Americans deserve. We support and applaud this resolution from Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman.”

“We believe that access to affordable water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit and broadband communications are basic human rights and public services that should be provided to all citizens,” said Mary Gutierrez, Founder and Executive Director at Earth Ethics. “We also believe that these rights and services should be accessible to all no matter a person’s socio-economic status, ethnicity, or community. We applaud and support the efforts of Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman and strongly encourage the Congress to pass this resolution.”

“Nobody should be deprived of the basic necessities for life just because they are poor, and we know that the people most likely to be deprived of utility services are Black, Indigenous, people of color, and rural residents,”said Kendall Dix, national policy director at Taproot Earth. “The best way to guarantee the human right to utilities is to make sure all utilities are publicly owned and publicly funded with progressive taxes rather than regressive user fees.”

“Daily, we witness devastating, disproportionate effects of increasing drought and extreme weather climate crises on humanity. Accessible and affordable clean drinking water and basic utilities must be rights for all humans,” said Rachel Dawn Davis, Public Policy & Justice Organizer for Waterspirit. “Advocates came together across Turtle Island to fight for these rights in 2020 and we deeply appreciate the leadership of Representatives Bush, Tlaib and Bowman in taking this vital step to ensure these basic human rights are protected indefinitely.”

“We fully support this resolution and urge Congress to pass it,” said Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance. “All residents of the United States of America should be able to rely on their political leader’s commitment to making sure they have the necessities of life; including water, heat, electricity and connectivity so they can live a safe, engaged and free existence. Keeping utility services affordable, public and accessible to all must be a priority and we cannot allow private companies to sacrifice human rights in the interest of profit.”

“Access to affordable utilities, including broadband communications are basic requirements for equitable access to opportunities in America,” said Andreanecia M. Morris, President, Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance. “This should be a no-brainer in 2022 and this resolution needs to be followed by concrete actions to ensure these basic needs are met for all and to #PutPeopleFirst.” 

“Universal access to safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. This resolution charts a bold vision for achieving it, recognizing publicly-controlled, well-funded, and equitable water systems as essential to this right. The crisis unfolding in Jackson, Mississippi is the latest of far too many signs that we cannot afford to wait any longer,” said Neil Gupta, Water Campaign Director at Corporate Accountability. “And the resolution goes even further, affirming the right of all people to the essential public services we need to thrive. Thank you to Representatives Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for their leadership in bringing forward this transformative framework for our communities.” 

“The US must join the global agreement to meet the United Nations (UN) 2030 food and water goals by passing legislation ensuring The Human Right To Utilities act,” said Pat Lando, Director – Recode.org. “Survival is always at risk when basic needs are controlled as a commodity and not as a basic healthcare right. The Universal Right to Basic Water / Utilities is an approach to join the global equitable human rights agreement which guarantees the necessary amount of potable (i.e. safe to drink) water and other basic utilities to everyone in the United States for the minimal purpose of ensuring personal and public health.” 

“The Resolution recognizing Human Rights to Utilities is essential to cultivating equitable communities. Unaffordable utilities rob our most vulnerable community members of their dignity, and sense of security, as they struggle to provide for their families’ safety. Access to affordable drinking water, sanitation, and heat are life sustaining services that provide communities with agency, psychological, and physiological well being,” said Erica Maceda, Executive Director of River in Action. “We strongly support and applaud the effort of Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman to ensure that families are safer and healthier.”

“We must acknowledge that access to water, sanitation, electricity, heating, cooling, public transit, and broadband communication is a human right so we can create equitable policies for society,” said Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN. “To go to school, have a job, or participate in civic life, every person requires access to foundational services from water to heating to broadband. Access can’t be a privilege for only those living in certain areas or with high enough incomes. We need everyone’s participation to empower communities, design cities, and develop local and national innovations. That participation can only happen with full access to all foundational services.” 

“Everyone needs to be able to heat and cool their homes, drink clean water, get to their jobs or school on public transportation, or work or attend classes from home using the internet. Electricity, heat, clean water, public transit, and broadband are essential for a dignified life, and should be regarded as a human right,” said Basav Sen, Climate Policy Director at the Institute for Policy Studies. “No one should be denied these essentials because they cannot afford steep utility bills, or they cannot afford to own a personal vehicle, or they cannot operate a personal vehicle because of a disability.”

“The climate crisis calls into question who controls the utilities we need to survive: water to drink, electricity for life-giving machines, the internet to keep connected to our loved ones. Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman deeply understand this and are moving our country to reclaim these human rights to be governed for the common good, and not held hostage by private utility companies that have frozen us over, left us to burn, or shut us off,” said Mari Rose Taruc, Coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign. 

“Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband is finally being acknowledged as a utility that should be treated as a public service, not a source of corporate profiteering,” said Brandon Forester, Organizer at MediaJustice. “The highly monopolized broadband marketplace fails to serve Black, brown, Indigenous and low-income communities because corporate ISPs care more about connecting their shareholders to profit than our communities to the Internet. MediaJustice appreciates the thought and care put into this legislation. We believe that when broadband — along with all the other public service utilities addressed — is truly accessible, safe, sufficient, affordable, justly sourced, climate resilient and reliable for every person, a different world is possible.” 

“Like all utilities, broadband is a vital public service that must be universally accessible, affordable, and reliable,” said Dana Floberg, Advocacy Director of Open MIC. “Instead, unaccountable internet providers have afflicted communities with discriminatory practices, outrageous prices, and life-threatening disconnections. We applaud this legislation for affirming that utility justice is a fundamental human right.”

“As we have seen with the COVID pandemic, our population needs fresh, clean water for consumption and washing hand,”said Peggy Ann Berry. “Children and adults without internet lost valuable education and work opportunities. Now, as we see temperatures rising with Climate Change, electricity is essential for cooling to prevent illnesses and death. Utility justice is a fundamental right, even more so with climate change.” 

“In America and around the globe, the climate and the times call for basic rights and compassion for all people,” said Ralph Kisberg, Energy Policy Consultant with the Responsible Decarbonization Alliance. “The Responsible Decarbonization Alliance congratulates Reps. Bush, Tlaib, and Bowman for their leadership in a Congress where nearly half the members lack the courage, awareness and decency to acknowledge the evidence and address the dire circumstances we face.”

“State governments have granted profit-driven utilities and wealthy CEOs too much power over residents’ access to basic, life-sustaining necessities,” said Erin Hempfling, Direct Action Against CenterPoint Energy (DAACE). “Heating and cooling, preparing food, and accessing the internet should not be treated as luxuries that can be taken away, especially from low-income and working-class residents who are already burdened most by the soaring cost of living and effects of climate change. We applaud this Resolution to affirm that these basic services should be reliable, affordable, and accessible to all.” 

“Most of us want to live in a healthy and beautiful world where we all enjoy our country’s great abundance equally,” said Megan Hess with We the People Action Fund. “To do that, we need to ensure basic human needs like water, sanitation, electricity, public transit and broadband are guaranteed to everyone, no exceptions. With this legislation, Reps. Bush, Tlaib and Bowman are amplifying a chorus of voices from every background to say that, in the wealthiest country in human history, we all have a basic human right to utilities. Together, and with legislation like this, we can create a world where that idea is a reality.”

“This piece of legislation is critical to the health of countless people in so many different communities,”said Marilyn Elie, the Co-Founder of Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition. “Every citizen in this country deserves clean water as a matter of course. Without water there can be no life

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