Arthur D’Andrea, the chair and sole remaining member of the Public Utility Commission, resigned late last week at the request of Gov. Gregg Abbott. D’Andrea pledged to remain on the PUC until Abbott names a replacement. In the announcement Abbott said in part, “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.” Texas Monthly obtained a recording of a March 9 call D’Andrea had with investors to discuss the fallout from the mid-February power crisis, in the midst of a fierce statewide winter storm. In that 48-minute call, D’Andrea promised to put the “weight of the commission” in opposing efforts to reverse skyrocketing power rates during the blackouts. Those efforts are being spearheaded by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who in effect controls the Texas Senate. That body passed SB 242 last week, calling on the PUC and the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas to correct what Patrick called “billions in pricing errors that occurred” during the winter storm. However, House Speaker Dade Phelan has called repricing “an extraordinary government intervention into the free market, which may have major consequences for both residential and commercial consumers going forward.” The House is holding hearings on restructuring ERCOT and related issues this week.
Columns & Opinions
I realize that this column may only reach and touch a few of my readers of the newspaper, but this is one that I can not let go of and have to write it down to get it off my chest.
The state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.8% in January, down a tick from December’s 6.9% rate but double the record low of 3.4% in May 2019. It is unclear what effect the mid-February winter storm had on employment, when power outages swept the state and many roads were impassable. We’ll find out next month.
I have had an entire week preparing this column. The open discussion surrounds Governor Abbott’s order to re-open Texas to 100% has been comical at times. Watching the reaction of California has been my favorite so far, but I want to discuss this seriously with you.
While Gov. Gregg Abbott has lifted the statewide mandate to wear a mask in public and allowed all businesses to operate at full capacity, many businesses, schools and other entities say they will continue to require that masks be worn. Abbott issued the order last week, effective March 10.