BLOG: Update on Energy Legislation in Texas House and Senate

If adopted, pending legislation could lead to higher-than-necessary utility rates and potentially undermine reliability.

 

Lawmakers have filed more than 6,000 bills since convening in Austin on Jan. 8 for the 86th Texas Legislature. By our calculation, more than 100 of these bills relate to gas or electricity.

We’ve kept our eye on several of these bills, especially those with implications for energy reliability, affordability and safety. Here are a few on our radar:

 

  • House Bill 1767 and Senate Bill 1513. These bills would direct the Texas Railroad Commission to presume the cost of employee compensation and benefits are reasonable and necessary for rate-setting purposes if those expenses are consistent with recent market compensation studies. Although this may sound reasonable on its face, an analysis from the Atmos Cities Steering Committee shows this legislation, if adopted, could lead to higher-than-necessary utility rates and potentially undermine reliability. The Texas Railroad Commission also has limited the use of financial-based market compensation studies in the manner contemplated by these bills. HB 1767 has been adopted by the Texas House. SB 1513 awaits a hearing in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee.

 

  • Senate Bill 1941. This bill would allow a transmission and distribution utility to enter into an agreement with a generator to provide power from an energy storage facility. This legislation stems from a recommendation by the Texas Public Utility Commission that lately has contended with thorny requests from regulated transmission utilities seeking permission to operate utility-scale batteries. The Senate Business and Commerce committee approved SB 1941 on April 9, and it now awaits consideration by the full Senate.

 

  • House Bill 864 and House Bill 866. These two bills are among  a dozen or so filed by Rep Rafael Anchia in response to a 2018 gas explosion that killed a 12-year-old girl in Dallas. HB 864 relates to reporting requirements for pipeline incidents. HB 866 relates to the replacement of certain gas pipelines with plastic pipes. Both bills have received approval from the House Energy Resources Committee.

 

  • House Bill 1408. This legislation would bar the state from operating “a website that lists retail electric service plans or providers for the purpose of enabling or assisting a customer’s selection of a retail electric service plan.” This describes a key function of PowerToChoose.org, the state-sponsored website for electricity shopping. HB 1408 has drawn fire from the consumer watchdog for The Dallas Morning News, who has noted that the bill would effectively kill the powertochoose website that over the years has benefitted consumers. This is also the view of consumer groups. HB 1408 awaits a hearing in the House State Affairs Committee.