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Bill to help electric competition and consumers draws industry fire

Here”s a simple idea: if you get busted for fraud, you shouldn”t be allowed to keep the money. Sounds like common sense and it is.

Except, apparently, for the Texas electric industry.  Currently, there’s nothing in Texas law to prevent electric generators that commit violations in the wholesale market from keeping at least some of their ill-gotten profits.  Because of this loophole, an electric company that allegedly manipulated the market in 2005 managed to walk away with nearly $4 million in excess profits — even after paying a settlement to the PUC. (You can click on the image above to watch a video that touches upon the issue.)

But legislation to fix this problem, House Bill 2133 by state Rep. Burt Solomons, has drawn fire from a number of big industry players and their surrogates. During a , representatives of large generators and a coalition of retail electric providers spoke critically of the bill. A representative of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, an Austin-based organization that often carries water for the industry, went so far as to declare that large electric companies should have free rein to willy-nilly drive up prices using methods that the PUC and other regulatory bodies consider anti-competitive.

“That is a bunch of hot air,” responded Solomons. “If you commit fraud and you (are required) to give the money back — (you say) that’s some kind of price control? I think you have your nerve standing up here. … You really want (the industry) to be able to commit fraud all day long, and not have anybody do anything about it?”

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power and other consumer groups stand in support of House Bill 2133.