Texas attorney general says $ 29 million in electric bills will be forgiven – tech2.org

Texas attorney general says $ 29 million in electric bills will be forgiven


Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday that more than $ 29 million in unpaid electric bills collected during the devastating winter storm will be forgiven. The relief is part of a bankruptcy plan by Griddy Energy, the Texas electricity provider accused of overcharging customers by thousands of dollars.

Griddy filed for bankruptcy Monday, becoming the third Texas energy provider to do so since the February storm that left millions of state residents without power amid freezing temperatures. At least 57 people died as a result of the storm, according to preliminary data released by the Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday.

“My office sued Griddy Energy, under the Texas Deceptive Business Practices Act, to hold them accountable for the escalation of last month’s winter storm disaster by debiting huge amounts from customer accounts as Texans struggled to survive the storm, “Paxton said in response to Griddy’s bankruptcy filing.

Griddy’s plan offers “releases to approximately 24,000 former customers who owe $ 29.1 million in unpaid electricity bills,” according to Paxton. He said his office is in ongoing negotiations with the supplier “to try to fix additional relief for Griddy customers who have already paid their storm-related energy bills.”

“Through the bankruptcy plan, Griddy will release all outstanding payment obligations for those Texas consumers who were unable to pay their energy bills due to the high prices charged during the storm,” according to the attorney general. “Texas will dismiss the state court and Civil Investigative Demand and Griddy will work with him in good faith to resolve these issues. Texas and Griddy will work in good faith to address relief for Texans who have already paid.”

Negotiations about paid bills could affect clients like Lisa Khoury, a Houston County resident of Chambers County, who says Griddy withdrew $ 1,200 from her bank account through an automatic payment system before she stopped payment through your bank. She still owes more than $ 8,000 for power that was intermittent.

Khoury is part of a class action lawsuit against Griddy seeking $ 1 billion in monetary relief from the company.

“Griddy charged Khoury in the middle of a disaster. Most of her and her husband were without power at their home from Wednesday, February 17, 2021 to Thursday, February 18, 2021,” the complaint read. They charged him $ 9,546 between February 1 and 19, roughly 40 times more than their typical bill range of $ 200 to $ 250, depending on the lawsuit. “At the same time, Khoury welcomed his parents and in-laws, who are in their 80s, during the storm. Even then, he continued to minimize energy use due to high prices,” the complaint read.

Khoury’s attorney, Derek Potts, national managing partner at Potts law firm, said Griddy’s billing violates Texas consumer protection laws, and thousands of electricity users are likely to be affected.

Potts said his firm is now “in the process of reviewing the Attorney General’s press release” and, in the meantime, “continues to move forward to try to locate and recover the estimated tens of millions of dollars that were actually taken from consumers. from Texas”. bank accounts and credit cards during the Griddy storm event. “

Griddy said the class action lawsuit was “without merit” in a statement given to the Dallas Morning News. On its website, the company claims that it does not benefit from high energy prices and blamed the Texas Public Utilities Commission for the astronomical increases last weekend. “The PUCT (Public Utilities Commission) changed the rules on Monday” when it directed the Texas grid provider to allow astronomically high energy prices, Griddy said, adding that it was “seeking relief” for its Electric Reliability Council customers. of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electricity to them. ERCOT is subject to the oversight of the Public Utilities Commission.

The last remaining member has resigned from office, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Tuesday night. Public Utility Commission Chairman Arthur D’Andrea, the only remaining member of the three-seat board that regulates Texas public services, resigned at Abbott’s request, according to the governor.

“Tonight, I requested and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. In the next few days I will appoint a replacement who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency,” the Abbott statement read. . “Texans deserve to have confidence and security in the Public Utilities Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

Abbott has repeatedly blamed ERCOT for the power outages and has asked the council for an investigation. Four members of the ERCOT board announced their own plan to resign In the immediate aftermath of the storm, two days later, a seventh member had resigned, reports the Texas Tribune.

In a letter to the board, the first members to resign cited concerns about their “out-of-state board leadership.” Three of the board members who resigned lived in other states and one lived in another country.

“We have noted recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership on ERCOT,” the letter read. “To allow state leaders a free hand regarding future direction and to eliminate distractions, we will resign from the board after our urgent teleconference meeting of the board ends on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.”

After the seventh resignation, ERCOT spokeswoman Leslie Sopko said, “I think he’s from Texas.”

Irina Ivanova contributed to this report.

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