State

Lt. Governor Puts Pressure on Governor Abbott to Reprice Blackout Electricity Bills

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick turned up the heat on Governor Greg Abbott Thursday afternoon, directly calling on him to reprice electricity transactions from a 32-hour period during the blackouts.

Appealing to Abbott for direct action, Patrick stated, “Under the emergency declaration, the governor has extraordinary power. He is the commander-in-chief, he is the ruler of all of the agencies. He can make this corrective action if he so chooses.”

Abbott came out against that idea last week, responding to Patrick via a press release, saying, “The Governor does not have independent authority to accomplish the goals you seek.”

When that failed, Patrick proposed a second option: asking the governor to launch an investigation into the pricing which would automatically delay tomorrow’s deadline for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) to clear its books of transactions. That deadline is 30 days after the transaction is made.

“I respect the governor’s legal wisdom, he’ll have to make the decision. But at the very least, he can order ERCOT, or tell the PUC chair, to tell ERCOT to announce that prices are under investigation.”

“The house said it wanted more time, this would give them more time,” he underscored.

The senate fast-tracked Senate Bill (SB) 2142 which orders the PUC to reprice transactions during that 32-hour window. The House Committee on State Affairs was in no rush earlier this week to hear that bill and was still listening to testimony on the question.

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) said afterward, “ERCOT and PUC failed Texas repeatedly during this tragic event, but the decisions made on pricing were made based on ensuring the reliability of the grid. I believe that these decisions may have saved lives.”

SB 2142 was referred to that committee Thursday morning.

“The senate passed a bill this week and the house took no action. So, it leaves it to the governor,” Patrick stated.

“I’ve worked very well with the governor for five years. We are on the same page 95 percent of the time. We just disagree on this,” Patrick said.

“But governor, you’ve asked the legislature to act and one chamber did and they voted 27 to 3 to correct it.”

Abbott added wholesale electricity billing corrections stemming from the blackouts to his list of emergency items, but left the issue at that.

After making those requests, Patrick then went through parts of the leaked tape of a call between Public Utility Commission Chair Arthur D’Andrea and Bank of America investors. That call was exposed this week, and resulted in D’Andrea’s resignation pending the appointment of his successor.

“There’s a principle here: that billions of dollars changed hands over five days. Many will argue it should not have gone to [the cap] on Monday. And here’s billions more dollars that should not have been added on.”

Patrick also called on Abbott to appoint the PUC replacements during the session, that way the senate has input on their confirmations. If Abbott waits until after the session, they will not have to be confirmed until next session. In announcing D’Andrea’s resignation on Tuesday, Abbott said he’d “nam[e] a replacement in the coming days.”

The lt. governor said he met with Phelan Thursday morning, about which he stated, “We had a good discussion. I think the senate just was able to get there faster than they were because we can move quickly.”

But Patrick later acknowledged that if the governor fulfills neither of his requests, “then nothing will happen.”

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