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‘They’re Not Responsible’: Texas Officials Say Residents Shouldn’t Have To Pay ‘Exorbitant’ Electric Bills After Storm

‘They’re Not Responsible’: Texas Officials Say Residents Shouldn’t Have To Pay ‘Exorbitant’ Electric Bills After Storm

Topline

Texas officials from both sides of the aisle are pushing for swift solutions from the state after numerous residents said they received massive electric bills despite spending days without power amid the winter storm this week. 

Houston Recovery

HOUSTON, TEXAS – November 1, 2017: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner at Houston City Hall. (Photo by … [+] Ilana Panich-Linsman for The Washington Post via Getty Images)


The Washington Post via Getty Images

Key Facts

Texans reported facing energy bills as high as $17,000 in the storm’s aftermath following the Monday order from the state’s Public Utility Commission that electric grid operator ERCOT raise its prices to meet supply constraints resulting from the weather.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) argued that the state should reckon with the financial consequences of the energy price hike, which reached the limit of $9,000 per megawatt hour for about five days (180 times the average hourly rate before the storm), not the customers. 

“All of what happened this past week was foreseeable and preventable,” Turner said during a Sunday morning interview with CBS’ “Face the Nation,” calling on Texas to dip into its “rainy day” fund to help residents: “Those exorbitant costs should be borne by the state of Texas and not the individual customers who did not cause this catastrophe this week.” 

Turner’s criticism was echoed from the other side of the aisle, where embattled Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R)—fielding harsh backlash for his since-aborted vacation to Mexico during the storm—slammed power companies claiming “windfall because of a natural disaster.” 

“Texans shouldn’t get hammered by ridiculous rate increases for last week’s energy debacle,” Cruz wrote on Twitter Sunday, calling on state and local regulators to “act swiftly to prevent this injustice.” 

Key Background 

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a meeting with state leaders on Saturday after reports and social media posts showed some Texans hit with five-figure energy bills despite suffering power outages through the week. Abbott said in a statement released after the meeting that leaders are moving to “quickly alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions.” Lawmakers have launched an investigation into the failures of ERCOT, the nation’s only state-operated power grid, after the incidents of the past week. 

Surprising Fact 

After spending the majority of the week with millions of outages, Texas was overtaken by Mississippi as the state with the most power outages on Sunday, according to PowerOutage.US, Just 34,073 Texas customers were lacking power as of Sunday afternoon, versus 34,369 in Mississippi. 

What To Watch For 

As the state thaws out with better weather forecasted for the coming week, attention has turned to ensuring that residents have enough food and water after days of shortages. According to The Texas Tribune, over 14.4 million Texans are still facing disruptions to their water supply, with 150,000 with no water or with non-operational systems. 

Further Reading 

“$17,000 Electric Bill? A Deregulated Power Grid Leads To Wild Prices For Texans” (Forbes)

The Two Hours That Nearly Destroyed Texas’ Electric Grid (Bloomberg)

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