With the House adjourned for the week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has set his sights on Gov. Greg Abbott, in the fight to push for electrical repricing after the winter storms last month.
On Thursday afternoon, Patrick held a press conference imploring Gov. Greg Abbott to step in to correct “billing errors” in relation to the severe winter weather from mid-February.
In his comments, Patrick briefly reviewed the actions the Senate had taken over the course of the last week in response to the emergency priority the governor himself had announced back on March 9th.
On Monday, March 15, the Senate quickly filed and passed Senate Bill 2142, which would force the Public Utility Commission to re-price the cost of electricity charged during the peak of the storm, and rushing it through the legislative process in mere hours, and sending it to the House by a vote of 27 to 3.
Since then, House Speaker Dade Phelan signaled he would not entertain the bill and the House of Representatives adjourned for the remainder of the week, even though there is an impending deadline to address this issue by Friday.
Patrick said in response, “The House took no action this week, they adjourned. So it leaves it to the governor.”
Patrick used the response to a solicited opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton as justification that the Public Utility Commission does have the “complete authority to act to ensure that ERCOT has accurately accounted for electricity production and delivery among market participants in the region.”
The opinion also went on to assuage any constitutional concerns by saying, “A court would likely find that such corrective action by the PUC…does not raise constitutional concerns, namely under Article 1, sections 16 and 17 of the Texas Constitution, provided that such regulatory action furthers a compelling public interest.”
“In terms of the governor’s power to act, he has renewed the emergency order and under an emergency declaration the governor has extraordinary power,” said Patrick, adding that Abbott is “the commander-in-chief,” and he could make the action “if he so chooses.”
“So I am asking the governor to consider, to tell ERCOT to correct that price on that day. If he does not, there is one other thing the governor can do,” Patrick added. “If ERCOT provides notice to the market participants within 30 days that prices are under investigation that preserves the ability for ERCOT to continue reviewing the prices.”
Patrick also acknowledged opposition to the plan, which would affect some producers at the expense of others.
“Will there be ramifications if we reprice? Yes. There are going to be ramifications no matter what happens. We have a lot of work to do on behalf of the ratepayers,” he said.
Patrick made sure to say he had a good working relationship with the governor multiple times during the press conference, saying “I’ve worked very well with the governor for 5 years, we are on the same page 95% of the time…. But governor, you asked the legislature to take action. One chamber did, they voted 27-3 to correct it. So, I would like for you to consider that.” He went on to say, “We work well together, we just disagree on this issue.”
As of publication, Abbott has not issued a response.