Texas’ Last Power Regulator Resigns After Ruinous Blackouts
(Bloomberg) -- The last remaining member of Texas’ three-person power regulating commission resigned Tuesday night under intense scrutiny following statewide blackouts last month.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in an emailed statement that he asked for and accepted the resignation of Arthur D’Andrea, the chairman and lone member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Abbott said he will name a replacement in the coming days.
The departure came days after D’Andrea was lambasted by state senators urging him to reverse billions of dollars in energy charges tied to the blackouts and hours after a story in Texas Monthly magazine cast him as putting the interests of Wall Street investors ahead of Texans. The state’s electricity market faces a more-than $3 billion shortfall, with state residents unclear how much will ultimately fall to them.
“Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal,” Abbott said in a statement.
D’Andrea said in his resignation letter that he will step down immediately after his successor is named. “D’Andrea will remain on the Commission until the Governor appoints and the Senate confirms a new commissioner, which could take days to weeks,” Josh Price, an analyst for Height Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients.
Freezing temperatures and a shortage of natural gas last month led to power outages that affected millions in the second-largest U.S. state. Now generators, utilities and retailers are sparring over how the bill should be divvied up.
At issue is $16 billion in alleged overcharges that accrued when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as Ercot, set the price of electricity at the $9,000-a-megawatt-hour maximum for more than four days during the grid emergency.
D’Andrea also came under fire for discussing the issue with Bank of America utility analysts in a private call two days before lawmakers were scheduled to rule on whether to roll back the charges.
The three-person commission had already lost two members in the past weeks after DeAnn Walker and Shelly Botkin resigned. D’Andrea was named chairman following Walker’s resignation.
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