Thursday, March 4, 2021

Texas’ Abbott to temporarily ban electric bills

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Texas utility regulators will temporarily ban power companies from billing customers or disconnecting them for non-payment, after the deadly winter storm that caused widespread blackouts, Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday. Gloria Tso reports.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a temporary ban on electric bills Sunday, as the state reels from a deadly winter storm which left millions without power.

The ban comes after many Texans were charged thousands of dollars for electricity during the deadly deep freeze.

According to invoices posted on social media, some Texans who managed to get their power back racked up $5,000 electricity bills over just five days.

Abbott told reporters in San Antonio Sunday that some 30,000 Texans were still without power.

“The Texas Public Utilities Commission called an emergency meeting today to issue a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payments. They are also going to restrict electric providers from sending customer invoices at this time. And this pause will give them time to address the electric and power billing challenges that Texans are seeing.”

Texas has a highly unusual deregulated energy market that lets residents choose between scores of competing electricity providers.

Some providers sell electricity at prices that rise in sync with demand, which skyrocketed as the record-breaking freeze gripped a state unprepared for extremely cold temperatures.

The news has prompted criticism from politicians on both sides of the aisle, including U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, who called the rate increases “ridiculous” and distanced himself from the free-market system he had previously praised.

Separately, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has ordered an investigation into power companies regarding their outages, emergency plans and pricing, saying that the companies “grossly mishandled” the weather emergency.

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