In the wake of the recent devastating winter storm that hit Texas last week, causing widespread power outages and water disruptions, Texans have been slammed with exorbitant electric bills. Both parties have expressed their dismay and avowed to take action on behalf of homeowners.
Following an “emergency meeting” with lawmakers, Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) announced Sunday that the Public Utility Commission of Texas will temporarily suspend power disconnections for customer nonpayment. The Commission will also prevent energy companies from sending invoices or bill estimates to customers.
“Our absolute top priority as a commission and a state is protecting electricity customers from the devastating effects of a storm that already affected their delivery of power,” commission Chair DeAnn Walker said in a statement. “The order and directives are intended to be temporary, likely through the end of this week, to address the potential financial impacts that are especially challenging during this extremely difficult time.”
Abbott has promised to make the recent spike in energy bills “the top priority for the Texas Legislature” after the wholesale price of electricity spiked more than 10,000 percent last week and customers reported being expected to pay up to $17,000. Legislators on both sides have spoken out against the exorbitant electric bills and have indicated their willingness to work on a bipartisan basis to address the issue.
“This is WRONG. No power company should get a windfall because of a natural disaster, and Texans shouldn’t get hammered by ridiculous rate increases for last week’s energy debacle,” tweeted Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who has recently come under fire for his response to the crisis. He then called on state and local regulators to “act swiftly to prevent this injustice.”
Texas Democrat Rep. Joaquin Castro has also been vocal on Twitter, promising to protect customers from the “extreme rates resulting from ultra greedy energy who took advantage during the snowstorm.”
ERCOT reform has been declared an emergency item in Texas Legislature, and the state House and Senate committees are expected to convene Feb 25th to investigate the failures of the state’s power grid operator.