Texas lawmakers prepare bill to cut $5.1 billion in winter storm power fees

FILE PHOTO: A neighborhood experiences a power outage after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in San Marcos, Texas, U.S. February 16, 2021. REUTERS/Mikala Compton

(Reuters) – Texas lawmakers on Monday were preparing legislation to cut about $5.1 billion in disputed electricity and services fees levied on power marketers during a winter freeze that sent the state’s power market into financial crisis.

The cold snap last month spurred a power crisis that pushed the state’s weekly electricity costs by nearly 10 times the usual to about $47 billion. Those costs led at least two bankruptcies and a sparked a battle between lawmakers and the state’s power regulator over the handling of the crisis and resulting prices.

Governor Greg Abbott on Monday submitted an emergency proposal authorizing legislators to address billing errors and service fees that led to a heated battle between lawmakers and the state’s power regulator over who can rescind the charges.

Lawmakers were moving to consider as early as Monday a bill cutting about $3.2 billion in power charges and services fees that state’s market adviser last week testified were improperly levied and should be corrected.

Arthur D’Andrea, the head of the state’s Public Utility Commission (PUC), rejected any change and advised lawmakers they could do it at the risk of a legal backlash. His refusal during a hearing last week to rescind prices sparked a heated comments between senators and the PUC chief.

One state senator, Charles Schwertner, ended his remarks by telling D’Andrea, who was appointed to the commission by Abbott: “My faith in you as chairman is severely, severely lacking.”

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