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Abbott Says State Leaders Are Moving To Alleviate Massive Energy Bills Following Winter Storm

Snow surrounds an Austin Energy station in Austin on Thursday.
Snow surrounds an Austin Energy station in Austin on Thursday.

Gov. Greg Abbott said he and other state leaders are taking aim at finding fast solutions for home owners and renters facing steep electricity bills.

On Sunday, during a news conference in San Antonio, Abbott said the Public Utility Commission was preparing to issue a moratorium on customer disconnections for nonpayment and to restrict electricity providers from sending customer invoices for the time being. The second move, Abbott said, would give the commission time to address the spike in some bills.

A day earlier, Abbott held a meeting with other state leaders to discuss the spikes some Texans are seeing in their energy bills following a massive winter storm that prompted dayslong power outages across the state. The meeting came after numerous reports of Texans receiving exorbitant electric bills despite not having power during the storm. One Texan, according to The New York Times, received a $16,752 electric bill. Not every resident will see the spikes in their bills.

"The skyrocketing prices that so many homeowners and renters are facing is the top priority for the Texas Legislature right now," he said at the Sunday press conference.

In a statement, Abbott called the Saturday meeting with lawmakers productive and said leaders "are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions." The meeting took place via phone conference call.

Along with Abbott, the heads of the Senate and House — Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, respectively — were also on the call.

Members of the two chambers also participated in the meeting, including chairs of the budget-writing Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees, as well as chairs of the Senate Business and Commerce and House Energy Resources committees.

The discussion with lawmakers, according to the governor’s office, centered on calculating the cost of those skyrocketing energy bills and “how the state can help reduce this burden.”

Later this week, House and Senate committees will convene to investigate how outages happened and what roles entities like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas played in those power failures.

"Thursday begins the questioning of the stakeholders involved to find out if anything went wrong, what went wrong, who's to blame, and more importantly, what solutions moving forward we can do as a state Legislature ... to make sure this absolutely never happens again," said state Rep. Craig Goldman, a Fort Worth Republican who chairs the House Energy Resources Committee, during an NBC-DFW interview that aired Sunday.

From The Texas Tribune

Cassandra Pollock | The Texas Tribune