An eastern aerial view of Austin after a severe snowstorm dumped heavy snow and plummeted temperatures. Feb. 15, 2021.

An eastern aerial view of Austin after a severe snowstorm dumped heavy snow and plummeted temperatures. Feb. 15, 2021. The rift emerging between the House and Senate marks the most visible difference yet between the two chambers, which have largely avoided open conflict this session until now.

Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

The Texas Senate’s hurried push to reverse billions of dollars in charges for wholesale electricity during last month’s winter storm appeared to hit a wall Tuesday in the House, a setback that drew consternation from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and marked the first major schism between the two chambers this legislative session.

At Patrick’s behest, the Senate scrambled Monday to pass Senate Bill 2142, which would force Texas’ energy grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, to claw back about $4.2 billion in charges after an independent market monitor found ERCOT artificially inflated prices and overbilled energy companies by $16 billion.

While Patrick has repeatedly characterized those billions of dollars in charges as a mistake, House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said in a statement earlier Tuesday that there was “no error” in the operator’s pricing and instead called it “a proactive decision.” Phelan also expressed skepticism with reversing such charges and said doing so “based on disagreement with PUC and ERCOT’s management decisions is an extraordinary government intervention into the free market.”

“ERCOT and PUC failed Texas repeatedly during this tragic event, but the decisions made on pricing were made based on ensuring the reliability of the grid,” Phelan said. “I believe that these decisions saved lives.”

Patrick responded in the Senate soon after, reiterating that he believed an error had been made and saying that it’s “a bad day for the Texas Legislature” if it can’t fix it.

“The Texas Senate stood for individuals, and I’m proud of you,” Patrick told senators. “The House stood for big business.”

ERCOT is a nonprofit entity that manages the power grid and controls the prices power generators charge to retail electric providers such as power companies and city utilities. During the storm, ERCOT set the price of electricity at $9,000 per megawatt-hour — the maximum amount allowed. The price remained that high for more than a day after ERCOT stopped forcing power outages due to limited supply. Outgoing ERCOT CEO Bill Magness and PUC Chair Arthur D’Andrea say the cap was necessary to incentivize generators to send power to the grid. Patrick and most senators believe the prices should be retroactively brought down.

D’Andrea has said publicly it would be improper — or even illegal — to reverse the charges. On Tuesday, Texas Monthly reported that he was even more forceful in a call with investors, saying he’d put the “weight of the commission” behind keeping the charges in place.

It’s still not clear how much the billing dispute will impact average Texans. The measure would not change existing law to prevent similar occurrences in the future. At least some of the additional costs incurred by retail electric providers would likely be passed on to customers through rate increases. But the impact varies by company — and those that sent power to the grid while rates were inflated stand to lose money if ERCOT reprices.

Gov. Greg Abbott has not weighed in on the fight since Monday morning, when he seemed to urge a more deliberate approach. He said electricity repricing posed potential conflicts with some provisions of the Texas Constitution and that the Legislature needed to “weed through all these complexities.” Later in the day, Patrick said the Senate did not have similar concerns after talking with lawyers and that if Abbott was worried about such issues, he would have detailed them when he named “billing errors” an emergency item.

While the Senate was in session Tuesday, Patrick said he had received word from Phelan that the House would not take action on Senate Bill 2142 before reading part of the speaker’s statement from earlier that afternoon. Phelan’s statement did not explicitly say the lower chamber would not act on the legislation — but it was the strongest indication yet that the bill faces long odds in the House.

In a statement after Patrick’s remarks Tuesday, the speaker’s office said Phelan and the lieutenant governor “have had no conversation about SB 2142” and that the speaker under House rules “will refer all proposed legislation, including SB 2142, to an appropriate committee with jurisdiction.”

“Speaker Phelan released a statement that highlighted his perspective on the caution necessary when discussing government intervention in the repricing of the electric market,” his office said.

Still, the rift emerging between the House and Senate marks the most visible difference yet between the two chambers, which have largely avoided open conflict this session until now.

After that Phelan statement, the lieutenant governor’s office tweeted that the “clock is ticking” to save Texas ratepayers billions of dollars and said it was “the Senate’s hope that the House will be allowed to vote [on SB 2142] on the floor, up or down, so their constituents know where they stand, just like we did.”

“We have until the end of the week for [the PUC] to correct the error,” the tweet said, referring to a March 20 deadline included in the legislation for the commission to take action.

Patrick on Tuesday again pressured Abbott to publicly support the Senate bill. Abbott has continued to back D’Andrea, whom he first appointed to the PUC in 2017. D’Andrea is the sole serving member of the three-person commission, after the other two officials resigned earlier this month.

“Well, Mr. Governor, the Senate has spoken,” Patrick said. “You still have not weighed in, and we believe you still have time to correct it.”

The House State Affairs Committee is scheduled to consider a number of bills on Thursday that would make changes to the electrical grid, including legislation that Phelan has indicated as a priority. State Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who was one of three senators to vote against SB 2142, has meanwhile filed his own legislative package that aligns more closely with Phelan’s aims.

While speaking on the Senate floor, Patrick stressed that the upper chamber still wanted to work with the House and “there are many issues to come.”

“But we will always go to first principles and do the right thing, no matter the cost,” Patrick said. “No matter the cost.”

Disclosure: Texas Monthly has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

33 Responses

  1. asmr

    Excellent pieces. Keep posting such kind of info on your blog.
    Im really impressed by it.
    Hi there, You have performed a great job. I will certainly
    digg it and for my part recommend to my friends. I am confident they
    will be benefited from this website. 0mniartist asmr

  2. 0mniartist

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say, I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog.
    I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m still
    new to everything. Do you have any recommendations for rookie blog writers?
    I’d really appreciate it. asmr 0mniartist

  3. 0mniartist

    Thank you, I’ve just been searching for information about this topic
    for ages and yours is the best I’ve came upon till now.
    But, what in regards to the conclusion? Are you
    certain in regards to the source? 0mniartist asmr


    It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d most certainly donate
    to this excellent blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your
    RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will talk about this site with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon! asmr 0mniartist

  5. or gamefly

    I read this paragraph completely concerning the comparison of most up-to-date and preceding technologies, it’s amazing article.

  6. but asmr

    I was recommended this website through my cousin. I am not positive whether this publish is written via him as nobody else understand such particular approximately my
    trouble. You are amazing! Thank you!

  7. this asmr

    Nice post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and
    I am impressed! Very helpful information specifically the last section 🙂 I care for such info much.

    I used to be looking for this certain information for a very long time.

    Thank you and good luck.

  8. of asmr

    Sweet blog! I found it while searching on Yahoo News.
    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo
    News? I’ve been trying for a while but I never seem
    to get there! Thank you

  9. gamefly why

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website?

    My blog is in the very same niche as yours and my users would truly benefit from a lot
    of the information you present here. Please let me know if this ok with you.

  10. asmr where

    Hi just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let
    you know a few of the images aren’t loading properly.

    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.


    dating sites
    An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague
    who had been conducting a little homework on this.
    And he in fact bought me dinner because I found it for
    him… lol. So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to discuss this
    topic here on your internet site. dating sites

  12. that asmr

    If you desire to grow your knowledge just keep visiting this web page and be updated with the most up-to-date
    gossip posted here.

  13. when dating sites

    I was wondering if you ever thought of changing the layout of your blog?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  14. dating sites in

    Hmm it seems like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I had written and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog blogger but I’m
    still new to everything. Do you have any points for
    newbie blog writers? I’d certainly appreciate it.

  15. and surgery scoliosis

    It’s in point of fact a great and helpful piece
    of info. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful info with
    us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.

  16. in free dating sites

    Hmm is anyone else encountering problems with the images on this
    blog loading? I’m trying to determine if its a problem on my
    end or if it’s the blog. Any responses would be greatly appreciated.

  17. free dating sites in

    Hi there! Someone in my Myspace group shared this website with us so I came to
    give it a look. I’m definitely enjoying the information. I’m bookmarking and will be tweeting this to my followers!
    Wonderful blog and excellent style and design.


    Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any problems with hackers?
    My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing a few
    months of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to
    stop hackers?


    Link exchange is nothing else except it is only placing the other person’s
    web site link on your page at proper place and other person will also do same in favor of you.

  20. Elliott Frisina

    Good day very cool site!! Guy .. Beautiful .. Wonderful .. I’ll bookmark your blog and take the feeds also? I am satisfied to find so many useful information here within the submit, we need develop more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .|

  21. Carman Lundstrom

    I’m impressed, I must say. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something too few people are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I stumbled across this during my hunt for something regarding this.|


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.