Citizens seek govt assistance to pay hefty electricity bills
AUSTIN, Texas: The elected officials in Texas has sought help from the state to pay some of the eye-watering electricity bills sent to residents after the devastating and deadly winter storm that caused widespread blackouts.
Texas has a highly unusual deregulated energy market that allows consumers to choose between scores of competing electricity providers.
The prices of electricity skyrocketed after a record-breaking freeze gripped a state unaccustomed to extreme cold which killed at least two dozen people and resulted in power outage to more than four million people, Fox8 reported.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said some 30,000 people were still without power on Sunday.
Some Texans who were still able to turn on lights or keep their fridge running have been sent the hefty electricity bills of $5,000 for just a five-day period, according to photos of invoices posted on social media by angry consumers.
One provider offering a wholesale tariff plan had urged its thousands of customers to switch suppliers ahead of the storm to avoid high prices, but many found it would take too long to change their provider, the Dallas Morning News said.
“The bill should go to the state of Texas,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in an interview with CBS News on Sunday.
“When they’re getting these exorbitant electricity bills and they’re having to pay for their homes, repair their homes, they should not have to bear the responsibility.”
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told CBS both the state and the federal government should be expected to help with the bills.
US Senator Ted Cruz, who was forced to cut short a holiday jaunt with his family to the Mexican beach resort of Cancun after public outrage, also distanced himself from the free-market system he had previously praised.
“This is WRONG,” Cruz wrote on Twitter. “No power company should get a windfall because of a natural disaster, and Texans shouldn’t get hammered by ridiculous rate increases for last week’s energy debacle. State and local regulators should act swiftly to prevent this injustice.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott called an emergency meeting of state lawmakers on Saturday to discuss the problem, saying in a statement that they had a responsibility to ensure Texans “do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills.”