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Texas Will Not Reverse Billions In Electricity Overcharges During Winter Storms Before Friday Deadline

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After Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called on Gov. Abbott to make the change himself on Thursday, the governor said it's up to the legislature to act.

Video Transcript

-- The State of Texas won't reverse billions of dollars in overcharges for electricity by ERCOT by today's deadline. Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick says, ratepayers now face up to $5 billion in charges, but the governor says that will be worked out in the courts. Meantime a bill requiring facilities that produce and deliver electrical power to prepare for extreme winter weather is now making its way through the Texas House. Political reporter, Jack Fink has a look for us.

-- It is our job to get it right.

JACK FINK: A Texas House Committee approved a bill and sent it on to the full House aimed at preventing last month's deadly power outages from happening again. It would require the Public Utility Commission to make sure power plant operators, electric co-ops, municipal owned utilities, and transmission companies, to implement measures to maintain service during a weather emergency, make reasonable efforts to prevent service interruptions, and reestablish as quickly as possible if there are any. The measure would also require companies to provide instructions to their employees and make sure they don't neglect rural and low income areas.

-- Winterization is technologically feasible and can be done affordably.

JACK FINK: But some residents told lawmakers they want stronger state oversight.

-- We are concerned that this bill as currently presented is not enough.

JACK FINK: Bruce Bullock, Director of the Maguire Energy Institute at SMU, says the bill is a good start but he agrees accountability measures will have to be added.

BRUCE BULLOCK: That's going to largely follow the Public Utility Commission now and so it doesn't have to be in the bill but if it's not in the bill, the Public Utility Commission is going to have to issue some regulations that stipulate that.

JACK FINK: Bullock says because some power plants weren't able to receive natural gas during the winter storms, the natural gas facilities and wellheads should also be required to prepare for extreme winter weather.

BRUCE BULLOCK: And so something similar to this addressing natural gas availability with the Railroad Commission is going to have to be looked at as well.

JACK FINK: Bills to require weatherization at natural gas facilities have also been proposed in the Texas House and Senate but haven't been referred to committees just yet. And federal weatherization standards are being developed right now that may become mandatory nationwide as well. Jack Fink, CBS 11 News.