Texas Senate Steps Up Bill Ordering Electricity Price Correction After Winter Storm
AUSTIN (Nexstar) – The Texas Senate has passed a bill to force the Texas Utilities Commission (PUC) to order a “price correction” for electricity sold during the hours following the winter storm.
Senate Bill 2142 was introduced, read, sent back to committee, voted out of committee, read a second time in the Senate, debated, mostly passed and finally passed Monday due to timing manipulation legislative.
“There is a compelling public interest in correcting the prices of wholesale electricity and ancillary services sold on the ERCOT market during the period beginning at 11:55 p.m. on February 17, 2021 and ending at 9 a.m. on February 19, 2021 The language of the bill indicates.
An independent market monitor reported that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and PUC failed to properly adjust energy prices in the hours following the storm, resulting in over 16 costs. billions of dollars.
The bill’s author, State Senator Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said during Monday’s committee hearing that “the errors resulted in inaccurate and excessive accusations,” noting that “everyone expects something to be done “.
The panel voted 3-1 to move him to the full Senate, where he was ultimately approved 27-3 (one absent).
State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr., D-Brownsville, said he wanted to “make sure the PUC follows what is set out in the law.” He asked Hughes how quickly compliance with the new law would take, and Hughes said PUC would be asked to take action “immediately”. Hughes added that the PUC would be asked to take action no later than March 20.
“We have to do something,” State Senator José Menéndez, D-San Antonio, said during debate on the bill.
State Senator Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said lawmakers “shouldn’t have to do this,” but if the legislature hasn’t acted, “the real losers will be our citizens,” who “will end up doing this. by paying for it one way or another. “
State Senator Kelly Hancock, R- North Richland Hills, was one of three “no” votes.
“There are good and bad ways to deal with the financial fallout of the winter storm and protect consumers from sky-high bills; I believe SB 2142 is the wrong way, ”he wrote in a statement.
Hancock believes that the measure goes against the provision of the Constitution of Texas preventing a breach of the obligation of contracts.
State Senator Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, also voted no.
“There are two sides to this equation – the electricity side and the natural gas side,” she said in a four paragraph statement. “I’m concerned that a retroactive change in the price of electricity without making any changes on the natural gas side of the equation poses a high risk of hurting the good players and bailing out the irresponsible.”
“This might be the most important bill passed this session in terms of its effect on a critical Texas industry, but we still don’t have a good understanding of the implications and potential unintended and long-term consequences of this action.” could have in the Texas energy market, ”she said.
After the bill was passed by the Senate, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick thanked lawmakers for “this extraordinary day”. He said last week that he had spoken to the governor and said passing a bill to deal with the billing situation as a matter of urgency may be difficult, but the Senate quickly held to hearings and drafted a bill to remedy it.
“We believe this bill corrects this error, which was clearly a mistake,” Patrick said at a press conference Monday afternoon.
Patrick said the state’s financial executives would work on a plan to help affected consumers after the price change.
“We are going to step up and help these taxpayers at some level, and we are not going to let them wipe them out,” he said, noting “it is going to take us a while to resolve this problem, we have to see what are the real numbers.
His message to the Texans worried they might end up in the hole after the proposed pricing was “don’t panic.”
“I know there are companies right now that are already sending notices to some of their customers, we’re going to add so much of a month to your bill for the next five years, 10 years, 20 years,” Patrick said. “We’re going to watch it all. So give us time to work through this. It is complex and complicated. “
“The Senate took action,” Patrick said Monday. He was hoping Gov. Greg Abbott would publicly share that he would sign the bill – a possible push to help him get through the House. It must be rejected by the House to go to the governor’s office.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Dade Phelan R-Beaumont said the lower house’s state affairs committee was due to hear testimony on Tuesday on the price review and the effects on the market.
Phelan released a statement Monday afternoon after the House received the bill.
“The House recently received SB 2142, the Senate price review bill,” said Phelan. “There has been conflicting testimony throughout this process about the costs associated with the price review, and there needs to be further scrutiny on this consequent issue. Tomorrow, the House State Affairs Committee will hear continued testimony on the impacts of re-pricing electricity. The work of the House continues.
Abbott made correcting post-storm billing errors an emergency item for lawmakers this session.
“These are very complex issues,” Abbott said in Houston Monday morning, when asked about the legality of the retroactive change in energy prices. “This is exactly why the legislature is the right body to investigate this, to remove all of these complexities and to ensure that if a law is passed it will meet the requirements of the Texas constitution.”
Asked about any updated statement once the bill passes the Senate, a spokesperson for Abbott recalled his comments at his press conference.
Photojournalist Frank Martinez contributed to this report.