The “last, best hope” for those who care about electricity prices. That’s how The Dallas Morning News described Senate Bill 1772 in an editorial May 22. The newspaper urged House lawmakers to quickly take up the bill and vote it out before time runs out on the 81st Texas Legislature.

“A chance remains to discourage market manipulation by passing CSSB 1772,” the newspaper opined. “The proposal comes just months after a Public Utility Commission decision to let the company formerly known as TXU off relatively easy for manipulating the wholesale power market. The legislation would take a tougher approach and would allow the PUC to order that refunds be given to affected parties.”

In late 2008 Luminant – formerly TXU – paid a $15 million penalty for alleged abuses in the wholesale market. The PUC had originally recommended penalties of more than $200 million, and the PUC’s own investigation found evidence that the company had profited by nearly $20 million.

Regulators also found that the company’s improper actions had cost market players at least $57 million, although the PUC said it was powerless to order refunds. CSSB 1772 would specify the PUC can order refunds in such cases, and thereby add another disincentive against improper market manipulation. The bill was recently voted out of the House State Affairs committee and awaits action by the full House.

The session ends June 1.

— R.A. Dyer