Texas CapitolRenewable energy, electro-magnetic attacks, fracking bans and smart thermostats — these energy-related topics and more have become the subject of legislation during the 84th Texas Legislature.

In all, more than 120 energy-related bills have been filed in the Texas House and Senate. Many would impact gas utility customers; others would impact consumers of electricity.  Some would help low-income ratepayers.  Most of the bills will be considered in either the State Affairs or Energy Resources committees in the House, or the Natural Resources and Economic Development Committee of the Senate.

Some of the highlights so far?

  • Cutting the lights to the NSA?  House Bill 3916 , by state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, prohibits cities from providing water or electric utility service to a federal agency “that is involved in the routine surveillance or collection and storage of bulk telephone or e-mail records … concerning any citizen of the United States.”
  • Senate Bill 1398, by Sen. Bob Hall, raises the specter of an electromagnetic or cyber-attack on electric utilities and other state infrastructure. It calls for the creation of a plan to protect the state from such attacks.
  • At the urging of big gas utilities, the Texas Railroad Commission recently adopted rules that will make it more difficult for cities to defend their citizens in gas utility cases. House Bill 2988 by state Rep. Jim Keffer and Senate Bill 1905 by Sen. Charles Perry would reverse those rules.
  • Similarly, House Bill 3084 by Rep. Giovanni Capriglione and Senate Bill 1271 by Sen. Royce West address related issues at the Texas Public Utility Commission. The PUC has authority over electric rates charged by the state’s transmission and distribution providers.
  • House Bill 224, by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, and House Bill 1106, by state Rep Larry Phillips, both would rename the Texas Railroad Commission. This is a good idea, given that the Texas Railroad Commission has nothing to do with railroads. Instead, the agency oversees what we all pay for gas utility service.
  • House Bill 575, by state Rep. Greg Bonnen, will ensure that electric customers receive advance notice before their fixed-rate deals expire.
  • House Bill 962, by state Rep. Matt Krause, would prohibit the creation of a system to subsidize big generation companies with what are known as “capacity payments.” Generation companies have lobbied hard over the last several years for capacity payments, but consumer groups (including the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power) oppose them.
  • House Bill 1101, by state Rep. Sylvester Turner, will extend the life of the System Benefit Fund that helps low-income Texans pay their electricity bills. There will remain approximately $200 million left in the System Benefit Fund at the end of the current budget cycle, and unless the legislature takes action that money will end up getting spent for an unrelated purpose. TCAP supports House Bill 1101.

Stay tuned here for more legislative details as they become available. Want to contact your local lawmaker? Check out the link here.

— R.A. Dyer

What is the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power?

TCAP is a coalition of more than 160 cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.