A battle is continuing to heat up in the Texas Capitol over legislative efforts to address high electrical pricing during February’s winter storm, and it has the two chambers of the State Legislature at odds.
On one side is Lt. Gov Dan Patrick and the Texas Senate. Last Friday night, Patrick sent Gov. Greg Abbott a letter imploring him to replace Arthur D’Andrea, the Public Utility Commission’s chairman and lone member, for refusing to retroactively lower electric prices to energy providers.
Opponents of such proposals say the change would ultimately help unreliable energy producers—such as wind and solar—at the expense of more reliable producers, and that consumers would ultimately be forced to pay.
Abbott stood by his appointee, saying he did not believe the PUC had the authority to do so, though he did not share his personal opinion on the prudence of repricing, instead deflecting to the legislature.
“The only entity that can authorize the solution you want is the legislature itself,” said Abbott.
So Patrick got to work.
On Monday morning, a bill was filed stating the PUC did have the authority to revise energy prices, and forcing them to do so. With stunning speed, the bill was rushed through the process, approved by a vote of 27-3 in the Senate, and sent to the House just hours after being originally filed.
That’s where the conflict has escalated.
On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after the Texas Senate gaveled in, House Speaker Dade Phelan released a statement saying he disagreed with the approach taken by the Senate, and that the high bills were not made in error but were a “proactive decision” from the PUC and the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas that “may have saved lives,” based on testimony made during a hearing of the House State Affairs Committee that morning.
“Repricing based on disagreement with PUC and ERCOT’s management decisions is an extraordinary government intervention into the free market, which may have major consequences for both residential and commercial consumers going forward,” said Phelan.
Instead, Phelan alluded to priority legislation in the House which would address variable electrical pricing going forward.
Shortly after Phelan released his written statement, Patrick fired back on the Senate floor, saying the Phelan and House members “never bothered to ask questions of the PUC chair about his conflicting testimony with the Senate.”
“The Texas Senate stood for individuals, and I’m proud of you. The House stood for big business,” said Patrick.
While the majority of Patrick’s comments were aimed towards the House, he also saved a few words for Abbott.
“The governor has yet to weigh in on what his opinion was. He said he left it to the legislature,” said Patrick. “Well, Mr. Governor, the Texas Senate has spoken and you have still not weighed in. And we believe you still have time to correct it.”
As of publishing, Abbott has not responded for comment.