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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says $29 million in unpaid electric bills will be forgiven

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton declared Tuesday that more than $29 million in unpaid electric bills charged during February’s devastating winter storm will be forgiven. The alleviation was part of a bankruptcy plan by Griddy Energy, the Texas electricity supplier blamed for overcharging clients by a great many dollars.

Griddy filed for bankruptcy on Monday, making it the third Texas energy supplier to file do as such since the February storm that left millions of the state’s inhabitants without power in the midst of subfreezing temperatures. At least 57 individuals passed on because of the tempest, as indicated by preliminary information released by the Texas Department of State Health Services on Monday.

“My office sued Griddy Energy, under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to hold them accountable for their escalation of last month’s winter storm disaster by debiting enormous amounts from customer accounts as Texans struggled to survive the storm,” Paxton said because of Griddy’s bankruptcy filing.

Griddy’s plan offers “releases to approximately 24,000 former customers who owe $29.1 million in unpaid electric bills,” as per Paxton. He said his office is in continuous negotiations with the supplier “to attempt to address additional relief for those Griddy customers who have already paid their storm-related energy bills.”

“Through the bankruptcy plan, Griddy will release all outstanding payment obligations for those Texas consumers who were unable to pay their energy bills due to the high prices charged during the storm,” as per the attorney general. “Texas will abate the state court lawsuit and Civil Investigative Demand and Griddy will work with it in good faith to resolve these matters. Texas and Griddy will work in good faith to address relief for Texans who have already paid.”

Negotiations overpaid bills could influence clients like Lisa Khoury, a resident of Chambers County in Houston, who says Griddy pulled $1,200 from her bank account through an auto-pay system before she halted payment through her bank. She actually owes more than $8,000 for power that was intermittent.

Khoury is essential for a class-action lawsuit against Griddy looking for $1 billion in financial alleviation from the organization.

“Griddy charged Khoury in the middle of a disaster. She and her husband mostly were without power in their home from Wednesday, February 17, 2021, to Thursday, February 18, 2021,” the complaint reads.

She was charged $9,546 between February 1 and 19 — around 40 times more than her typical bill range of $200 to $250, as per the suit.

“At the same time, Khoury hosted her parents and in-laws, who are in their 80s, during the storm. Even then, she continued to minimize any power usage because of the high prices,” reads the complaint.

Khoury’s attorney Derek Potts, a national managing partner of the Potts Law Firm, said Griddy’s billing runs afoul of Texas’ consumer protection laws — and a huge number of electricity clients are likely influenced.

Potts said his firm is currently “in the process of reviewing the Attorney General’s press release,” and meanwhile is “continuing to move forward to attempt to locate and recoup the estimated tens of millions of dollars which were actually taken from Texas consumers’ bank accounts and credit cards during the storm event by Griddy.”

Griddy said the class-action lawsuit was “meritless” in a proclamation given to the Dallas Morning News. On its site, the organization states it doesn’t benefit from high power costs and reprimanded the Public Utility Commission of Texas for weekend astronomical hikes.

“The PUCT (Public Utility Commission) changed the rules on Monday” when it guided Texas’ matrix supplier to permit cosmically high force costs, Griddy said, adding that it was “seeking relief” for its clients from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which deals with the flow of electricity to them. ERCOT is dependent upon oversight by the Public Utility Commission.

The last remaining member has now left his post, Governor Greg Abbott said in a proclamation Tuesday night. Public Utility Commission Chair Arthur D’Andrea, the only remaining member of the three-seat board that manages Texas utilities, stepped down at Abbott’s request, as per the governor.

“Tonight, I asked for and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea. I will be naming a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency,” reads Abbott’s statement. “Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

Abbott has repeatedly reprimanded ERCOT for the power failures and has required an examination concerning the council. Four ERCOT board members declared their own plans to resign following the tempest, after two days a seventh member had stepped down, the Texas Tribune reports.

In a letter to the board, the first resigning members referred to worries about their “out-of-state board leadership.” Three of the resigning board members lived in different states, and once lived in another country.

“We have noted recent concerns about out-of-state board leadership at ERCOT,” the letter said. “To allow state leaders a free hand with the future direction and to eliminate distractions, we are resigning from the board effective after our urgent board teleconference meeting adjourns on Wednesday, February 24, 2021.”

After the seventh resignation, ERCOT representative Leslie Sopko said: “I believe he is from Texas.”

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