AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Thursday called on Gov. Greg Abbott to reverse billions of dollars of electricity overcharges that were a result of last month’s extreme winter storm, saying Abbott is the last option before a deadline tomorrow.
“The clock is ticking,” Patrick said. “The governor of Texas is a very powerful person. He can do anything he wants.”
The Texas Senate, led by Patrick, approved a bill earlier in the week that would require the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to reverse $4 billion in charges. But House Speaker Dade Phelan has expressed skepticism of the plan and the Texas House hasn’t considered the bill.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Patrick cited an opinion by Attorney General Ken Paxton that said the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT, has the authority to reverse the charges and that during a declared emergency, Abbott possesses broad control of state agencies.
“Under an 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,” Patrick said.
If Abbott does not reverse the charges on his own, Patrick said the governor can ask ERCOT to investigate the price spike during the storm, which gives the state legislature more time to consider the issue.
Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze issued the following statement:
“In response to the winter storm, Governor Abbott made three issues emergency items for the legislature to consider: winterization of the power system; reform of ERCOT; and inaccurate and excessive charges. The Governor made these emergency legislative items because that’s exactly what they are. He will continue working with the House and Senate to ensure policies are put in place that will protect Texans from excessive charges, help them recover from the storm, and ensure this never happens again.
Today, the Texas House is concluding hearings and is expected to vote tonight on significant legislation to address ERCOT reforms, winterization, and consumer protection, among other items related to our electric systems. The Governor has been in conversations all week with Speaker Dade Phelan, Representative Chris Paddie, and Senator Kelly Hancock on these and similar matters.”
Patrick said earlier this week he didn’t know who are the winners or losers from the pricing spike. But experts said a reversal of prices would simply flip the roles.
“The challenge with repricing is those who made the investment and performed higher than expectations will be punished,” said Michael Webber, an energy professor at the University of Texas.