AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is calling out Gov. Greg Abbott once more — saying the governor is leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for fixing the state’s energy grid.
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“Many of you are already seeing rising utility bills,” O’Rourke says. “In fact, the average Texas household, by the end of this winter, will see an increase in their utility bills of between $20 and $50 per month going forward.”
O’Rourke says Texans will pay the “tens of billions” it’ll take to prevent another mass outage this winter. Concerns over the power grid’s reliability have lingered since February’s deadly winter storm, which left millions without heat and lights for days in freezing temperatures.
Some replied to O’Rourke’s tweet with photos of their electricity bills, with many saying their providers have steadily increased prices recently.
“This is the “Abbott Tax” — because Greg Abbott, the Governor of Texas, has failed to prepare our electricity grid and has failed to do anything meaningful after the failure of that grid to make sure we don’t have other problems going forward.”
And O’Rourke said the increases aren’t stopping there.
“To add insult to injury, yesterday Abbott’s appointees at the Public Utility Commission decided they would add another $15-$20 on top of the addition that you are already paying — adding to the “Abbott Tax” that every single Texas ratepayer will be paying going forward. Not just for months but for years in the future.”
This week, PUC approved several changes to how the state’s electric market will operate. PUC chairperson Peter Lake said the changes reflect a greater focus on reliability over affordability.
O’Rourke further claims that while PUC was meeting, Abbott was meeting with energy executives “who helped to cause the problem with Greg Abbott in the first place.” O’Rourke says these executives have donated over $4.6 million to Abbott’s re-election campaign.
By June 2021, Texas energy executives had already donated this sum to Abbott’s campaign, the Texas Ethics Commission reports.
“[This helps] to explain why he’s done nothing to protect the grid going forward. He’s more interested in looking out for his campaign contributors than he is in protecting all of us in the state of Texas,” O’Rourke says.
But Abbott has repeatedly assured enough has been done ahead of any severe weather this winter.
Last month, Abbott explained that a roster of laws he signed will make the grid more effective. The governor said the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which directs the vast majority of electricity in Texas, is working to be proactive rather than reactive. Additionally, Abbott said he met with natural pipeline transmitters who said they’re winterizing.
“I can guarantee the lights will stay on,” Abbott said.
But O’Rourke’s not convinced.
ERCOT itself estimated in November that the grid is still vulnerable to severe weather. The council says that while power demands are expected to fall short of the demands back in February, certain conditions could potentially present problems.
“So it’s a reminder to us every time we pay that electricity or that gas bill: that we’re also paying the Abbott Tax. That is the cost and the consequence of the failure of the man in the highest position of public trust in the state,” O’Rourke concludes.