Texas PUC chair resigns; state attorney general files lawsuit against power provider
March 2, 2021
by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
March 2, 2021
DeAnn Walker on March 1 resigned as chairwoman of the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT), days after she faced questions from state lawmakers at a hearing that examined rotating outages implemented by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in the wake of an arctic blast.
On Feb. 25, Walker appeared before a hearing held by the Texas Senate’s Committee on Business and Commerce. ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness also participated in the hearing.
Among other things, state Sen. Robert Nichols asked Walker questions about winterization by generators, which he said is “key to keep this from happening in the first place.”
She said that while the PUCT has enforcement authority over weatherization, it is limited to emergency operation plans. “We do not have any authority to require them to do weatherization.”
In response, Nichols said, “the time to fix these things is not during an emergency. It’s during a time when we’re not in an emergency.”
Sen. Brandon Creighton noted that Walker had mentioned several times that she doubted the authority she held.
When asked by Creighton whether she feels like she has enough authority, Walker said, “I think it depends on what obligation you’re referring to. If you’re referring to weatherization, I think I need more.”
Creighton pointed out that under the Texas Public Utility Regulatory Act, “that act gives the Commission complete authority over ERCOT…you have complete authority over ERCOT. So I’m having trouble with you mentioning several different times that you lack the authority or that this or that has been delegated to ERCOT.”
Texas AG sues power provider
Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on March 1 filed a lawsuit against Griddy LLC “for violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act through false, misleading, and deceptive advertising and marketing practices,” Paxton’s office said in a news release.
“During the February freeze, Texas power companies failed to withstand the winter storm and left millions of Texans without power and heat during lethal, record-low temperatures across the state. Compounding this disaster, Griddy passed skyrocketing energy costs to customers with little to no warning, resulting in consumers paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars each day for electricity,” the news release said.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief from Griddy “to ensure that the Texans it serves will receive truthful and accurate energy service in the future, and to have the court order refunds from available sources,” Paxton’s office said.
ERCOT in a Feb. 26 market notice said that it had revoked all rights of Griddy Energy LLC to conduct activity under the ERCOT protocols due to a payment breach.
ERCOT said in the notice that it had initiated the mass transition of Griddy Energy customers on February 26 and that it was working closely with PUCT staff and affected market participants to ensure an efficient and effective transfer of customers to designated providers of last resort.