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Public Citizen Welcomes Opportunity for Senate to Hold Rogue Utility CPS Energy Accountable

Jan. 14, 2010 

Public Citizen Welcomes Opportunity for Senate to Hold Rogue Utility CPS Energy Accountable

Statement of Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas Office

The latest task of the state Senate Business and Commerce Committee provides a welcome opportunity for Texas to rein in rogue utilities like CPS Energy of San Antonio. Now charged with studying the costs of municipally owned utilities’ generation plans and their impacts on residential and commercial customers, the Senate committee has the opportunity to protect Texans, especially low-income families, from the machinations of a utility bent on pleasing its industrial consumers at the cost of its most vulnerable customers.

CPS Energy is pursuing a risky investment in a nuclear expansion project that, depending on the final cost of the project, would raise rates between 36 percent and 60 percent over the next 10 years. The municipally owned utility has failed to adequately involve the citizenry and city government in its generation planning process. CPS Energy’s nuclear energy plan lacks any mechanism to protect consumers or low-income families, despite the fact that those customers would have to pick up the tab if the deal gets more expensive.

In comparison, the city of Austin’s generation planning process spanned two years and involved public input and roundtable stakeholder negotiations, leading to the development of special policies to protect low-income families from higher bills. Policies like built-in periodic reassessments of cost and feasibility will protect Austin residents and businesses from runaway energy costs that are so typical of large-scale nuclear construction projects. San Antonio residents need to see the same protections.

As Austin’s process clearly shows, CPS Energy can be much more inclusive and transparent. Public Citizen is grateful that the members of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee can step in and act as responsible figures in this process.

To read more about what the committee will do, look to item 4 on page 2 of the Interim Charges to the 81st Legislature document at https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/senateinterimcharges81.pdf.