Texas wants to borrow $ 6.5 billion for unpaid bills from the February freeze. You will pay.


Growing up, I was constantly accosted by older children who wanted my money. I would tell them I didn’t have one (it was hidden in my sneakers), and they would ask, “OK, whatever I find, I keep it. “


I pulled the pockets of my pants inside out and showed that there was nothing there.

But this type of demand for money is what is happening to most electricity and gas users in Texas today. ERCOT, the network operator, is asking the Utilities Commission – which I call the (p) UC because the “public” part is a joke – $ 800 million to help pay off the debts of the utility companies. electricity and utilities. But that’s only a small part.

Add an additional $ 2.1 billion in electricity bailout bonds.

Then add to those $ 3.6 billion in bond loans for which a dozen gas companies are seeking approval from the Texas Railroad Commission.

The total is a whopping $ 6.5 billion in loan applications. It’s the penalty we have to pay for four days of domestic terror when freezing temperatures, snow and ice cut off most of the state’s energy supply. The money is supposed to be used to help pay off the debts of energy companies which received extraordinarily high bills during the storm when wholesale energy prices soared.

The (p) UC and ERCOT – which I call E-COT, because the “R” for reliability is a joke – are accomplices of Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas legislature in this common street assault.

This debt will be on top of our electricity and gas bills and could last up to 30 years in payments. And no one seems to care what you think.

Abbott, of course, did not add energy reform to its last special session of the Legislature. There is no doubt that its managers of energy lobbyists would not allow it.

You won’t hear about this $ 6.5 billion bailout at a press conference or in a state press release. It is basically hidden from public view. I had to go through the terribly written 292 page E-COT request. Weak point of my week.

Among all the gibberish, there isn’t even a summary to help readers. I don’t think they want you to read it anyway.

Who will receive the money, how much and for what reason? We may never know because there are detailed rules on how to keep this information secret.

“Every time you pay something, you should see the bill,” says Carol Biedrzycki, the state’s leading electricity reformer who came out of retirement to help us get to the bottom of this financial plan.

“They are handing money back to the industry on a silver platter when it should be their responsibility because the industry has benefited from it,” she says of the February freeze.

“The disaster happened because of their ineffectiveness, so why should everyone bend over backwards to clean up the problems they created? “

AARP Texas Associate Director Tim Morstadt said: “The only thing certain is that the public prize pool has been opened for an indefinite amount which is certainly in the billions.”

He adds, “Someone has to ask, ‘What are customers getting in return? “”

The answer, say regulators and the companies involved, is reliable service, which is their mission.

Atmos Energy spokesperson Tim Enstice said: “Atmos Energy’s priority is to safely provide reliable natural gas services to our customers. … We will have more clarity on the impact on customer invoices when the financing order is issued. Atmos Energy continues to advocate for a longer payback period to minimize the impact on customer bills.

$ 40 per month?

At least one energy supplier is clear on what it will do to its customers. CenterPoint Energy, which supplies gas to other parts of the state, such as Atmos, says its monthly bills could go up to $ 40 a month, depending on the money it receives from the sale of ‘obligations.

CenterPoint is asking the Texas Railroad Commission to approve a $ 1.1 billion loan. Atmos is asking for $ 2 billion.

They are among a dozen gas companies asking for $ 3.6 billion.

Specifically, CenterPoint states that if the loan is approved, a monthly bill could go as low as $ 5. If not approved, that number could rise to $ 40.

No one can say for sure how long these increases will last, but one figure that keeps coming up is 30 years. A person born this year could repay these loans as an adult.

If you’re wondering why companies don’t absorb the costs, well, it’s Texas. Consumers don’t matter that much.

Biedrzycki asks why they don’t borrow money with low-interest loans instead of paying millions in overhead to issue expensive bonds. Our guarantee is good: millions of Texans pay a small bill every month.

In the case of bonds, we have to pay financing fees, underwriting fees, financial advisor fees, rating agency fees, accountants and outside legal advisers. They all take money on top.

The bonds have names such as Energy Transition Bonds, Storm Recovery Bonds, System Restoration Bonds, and Restructuring Bonds.

E-COT states in its dossier that the bonds are necessary “to preserve the integrity of the wholesale market and are in the public interest”.

Biedrzycki sees it as an ironic twist: “Electricity competition in Texas means privatizing profits and socializing losses. The industry has certainly made billions. You would think they would be happy to take the ERCOT note that made it all possible, ”she said.

AARP’s Morstadt says the effort proves to energy companies that if they fail us, “they know Mom and Pop across Texas are going to foot the bill.”

The (p) CU still has to approve the loan for electricity, and the railway commission has to approve the loan for gas.

It’s an assault on tens of millions of Texans in broad daylight. The state puts your pockets inside out. And like when I was a kid, whatever he finds he’ll keep.

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