(Reuters) – Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick on Thursday called for Governor Greg Abbott to use his emergency powers to roll back high storm power pricing that has roiled the state’s electricity industry.
Patrick, who presides over the state senate, has become the biggest proponent of reducing about $47 billion in power costs from a mid-February cold snap. He publicly prodded the governor after the state’s utilities regulator rejected price cuts and the house referred the matter to committee.
The deep freeze killed at least 56 people and left 4.3 million Texans without power or heat for days after half the state’s power plants went offline. The demand for power and lack of generation boosted electricity prices by up 400 times the usual levels. Four companies have filed for bankruptcy and dozens more are in danger of going out of business.
“The governor can make this corrective action if he so chooses,” said Patrick, citing an emergency decree that allows Abbott to order the Public Utility Commission and grid operator ERCOT to take action.
Patrick said he took the unusual step of publicly pleading for the governor to act because of the short time allowed to make the price change. ERCOT has 30 days after an event to adjust pricing, which expires this week.
Referring to PUC Chairman Arthur D’Andrea’s leaked comments to Wall Street investors that he “tipped the scale as hard as I could” to prevent a rollback, Patrick said: “We just can’t abide by that.”
The governor can use emergency power to order a rollback of 32 hours of high pricing or request an investigation that will allow the changes to be considered further, Patrick told a news conference.
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams, Editing by Franklin Paul, David Gregorio and Dan Grebler)