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SB 932, if passed, would modify the Utilities Code (Section 1, Chapter I, Subchapter 39) by affecting how the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) may act during a federal hearing. The motivation behind this bill is to address the twenty-one proceedings with the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission which the PUC is party to.
The bill specifies that the PUC may retain any consultant, accountant, auditor, engineer, or attorney it considers necessary to assist with the proceedings. SB 932 also puts an annual $1.5 million spending limit in place for each utility acting under the provisions of the bill. The final change made is the pushing back of the expiration date of this section from December 1st of 2017 to September 1st of 2023.
This legislation addresses a legitimate issue which is the federal government's attempt to force Texas to bend to its will on energy issues. The state has a responsibility to push back against such intrusions by the federal government. The federal plan ignores the will of the states and will lead to fewer electricity generation options and, ultimately, less consumer choice and higher prices
Unfortunately, the well-intended provisions of this legislation would lead to rate increases for utility customers of the particular utilities this legislation purports to help. By allowing the PUC to hire expensive counsel to help repel federal cases in the courts and passing the costs on to ratepayers the end result would be the same for consumers win or lose; higher utility rates.
This issue does need to be addressed, but the PUC already has a team of in-house attorneys whose job it is to handle these types of issues. Furthermore, this is also the job of the Office of the Attorney General. The expansion of the cost of government that would result from this bill is not justified considering the resources the state already has to address the issue of federal encroachment on Texas energy policy.
This is somewhat of a big government approach to defending free markets. Considering the conflicting principles at work in this legislation we remain neutral.
The House chamber sponsor is Rep. Cook.