Texas Governor Addresses Texans' Exorbitant Electric Bills and Calls it a “Top Priority”

Texas power outages as icy storm looms
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he and other state leaders are finding ways to “shield’ residents from skyrocketing electric bills Texans are facing in wake of the deadly storm that led to monumental power grid failures that left millions without electricity, according to a report. 

During a Sunday news conference, Abbott called it a “top priority for the Texas legislature right now,” CBS News reported.

"Texans who suffered through days of freezing cold without power should not be subjected to skyrocketing energy bills due to a spike in the energy market," the Governor said.

On Sunday the Public Utility Commission signed two orders, including one that would direct energy providers to temporarily stop disconnecting customers from power or water because they have not paid. The second-order prevents companies from sending out invoices or bill estimates to customers “until we work through issues of how we are going to financially manage the situation we are in," Commissioner Chair DeeAnn Walker told The Texas Tribune.

Abbott said as power went out during the storm, those Texans who did not have a fixed electric plan had their bills spike due to market costs, with some bills totaling in the tens of thousands of dollars, CBS reported. 

Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old, former Army veteran, who lives on the payments he gets from Social Security told The New York Times that he nearly had to empty his savings account so he would be able to pay the $16,752 electric bill charged to his credit card - 70 times what he usually pays for all of his utilities combined. "It’s broken me," he said.

Willoughby was one of many residents who reported exorbitant charges and called for action from lawmakers from both parties and prompted the governor to hold an emergency meeting with legislators on Saturday to discuss the matter, The New York Times reported. 

As of Sunday afternoon, 30,000 Texans still had no power; however, Abbott said he expected power to be restored throughout the state by Sunday evening, according to a report 

The state also continues to face a lack of access to clean water and food shortages. On Sunday Abbott said the state was distributing “Meals Ready to Eat” (MRE’s) and requested a USDA disaster declaration to help distribute food. He also suspended regulations on trucking so drivers would be able to deliver food to grocery stores. And, lifted restrictions on kitchens so they are able to prepare food as long as they complied with state health guidelines.

According to The Texas Department of Environmental Quality, boil water notices have been lifted for about 5 million Texans on Sunday for Houston and most of San Antonio. The governor also called on plumbers to help residents with any broken pipes. President Biden announced on Saturday a major disaster declaration, that will make 77 of Texas' 254 counties eligible for federal funding, to help with recovery efforts, according to a report. 

Moving forward, Abbot said he will winterize all sources of energy, so his state “should never run short of power again.”

Later this week, the House and Senate committee will meet to investigate how the outages happened, what entities such as, The Electric Reliability Council of Texas played a part and what solutions can the state legislature do moving forward, The Texas Tribune reported.

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