UPDATE 2-Texas lawmakers pass bill to cut $5.1 bln in winter storm power fees
Adds senate approves bill, moves to house; no response from PUC
By Gary McWilliams
March 15 (Reuters) - Texas lawmakers on Monday approved a bill to cut about $5.1 billion in disputed electricity and services fees levied on power marketers during a winter freeze that sent the state's power market into financial crisis.
The cold snap last month spurred a power crisis that pushed up electricity costs by nearly 10 times the usual to about $47 billion. Those costs led three companies to seek bankruptcy and a sparked a battle between lawmakers and the state's power regulator over the handling of the crisis.
The state's senate overwhelmingly approved a measure directing the Public Utility Commission chairman and state grid operator Electric Reliability Commission of Texas (ERCOT) to correct 32 hours of emergency prices and rollback service fees. If approved by the state's house of representatives, it would go to the governor's desk for his review.
A PUC spokesman did not immediately reply to a request for comment. PUC Chairman Arthur D'Andrea rejected prior senate requests, saying he did not have the authority to act.
Senators directed D'Andrea and ERCOT to "follow the law" and make requested rate and fee changes by Saturday, said state Senator Bryan Hughes.
"Those 32 hours resulted in inaccurate and excessive charges to the tune of billions of dollars," Hughes said.
ERCOT improperly held charges at $9,000 per megawatt hour, about 400 times the usual rate, and its rules allow for pricing errors to be corrected within 55 days, the state's market adviser last week testified. nL1N2L91QG
On Monday, power marketer Griddy Energy LLC became the third Texas power provider to seek protection from creditors from the storm. It owes creditors $10 million to $50 million and has assets of less than $10 million, according to a filing with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Houston. nL4N2LD46K
(Reporting by Gary McWilliams
Editing by Nick Zieminski and Marguerita Choy)
((Gary.McWilliams@thomsonreuters.com; +1 469-691-7668;))