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Hunt Proposal To Buy Oncor Is Now Dead, Officially

Also, Greg Abbott rejects a call by the Obama administration to roll back state-level sanctions against Iran.

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A Ray L. Hunt-led proposal to buy and reshape Oncor, the state’s largest electric utility, is officially dead.

The Texas Public Utility Commission on Thursday nailed the coffin shut on the deal, one day after the Dallas oil family asked the three-member panel to vacate its March order on the matter. That order approved the sale with stipulations that investors later called a deal-breaker.

Instead of precisely granting Hunt's request, the commission voted unanimously to let its original order stand — leaving the deal to wither on its own.

Thursday's vote officially rendered moot a seven-month slog that sometimes turned testy at the commission, which was tasked with deciding whether Hunt’s plan was in Texans’ “public interest.”

Hunt had said yes, but consumer advocates, PUC staff and some lawmakers said no. The commissioners eventually said 'yes, if' in crafting the complicated March decision.

After that order, Hunt initially asked for a rehearing on the matter, suggesting that it could salvage the deal — if regulators helped. But on Wednesday, the family changed its tune, acknowledging that such an effort was doomed.

That’s because Energy Future Holdings — Oncor’s heavily indebted parent — recently filed a new reorganization plan in a Delaware bankruptcy court. It no longer made the Hunt deal for Oncor its centerpiece. It leaves open the possibility such a sale to the Hunt family or anyone else.

Hunt vows to launch a new effort from scratch.

“The Commission’s actions today now allow all parties to engage in conversations about next steps toward ensuring that Oncor remains under the management control of Texans,” Jeanne Philips, a spokeswoman for Hunt Consolidated, said in a statement. “Hunt is committed to working with all stakeholders to come up with a plan that supports this goal.”

For its part, Oncor said through spokesman Geoff Bailey: “We look forward to working with all parties interested in acquiring Energy Future Holdings' majority stake in Oncor.”

The biggest sticking point in the now-failed deal concerned how regulators would treat hundreds of millions of dollars each year that investors sought to save on federal taxes by shifting into a real estate investment trust.

Had Hunt’s group stuck with the March order, the commission looked poised to force the utility to share some of those tax savings directly with ratepayers, potentially lowering their bills — and the yield to investors.

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Gov. Greg Abbott told President Barack Obama on Monday that Texas will not only maintain its sanctions against Iran but also build on them, rejecting an effort by Obama's administration to get states to roll back such laws.

Abbott made the announcement in a letter to the president, whose administration asked governors last month to revisit their state-level sanctions in light of the United States' agreement with Iran to scale back its nuclear program.

"Because the Iran deal is fundamentally flawed and does not permanently dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability, Texas will maintain its sanctions against Iran," Abbott wrote. "Further, because your administration has recklessly and unilaterally removed critical sanctions, I have called on the Texas Legislature to strengthen the Iran sanctions that Texas already has in place."

Texas already has a law that prohibits state pension and retirement systems from investing in Iran or entities that conduct business with the country. Abbott told Obama he wants the Texas Legislature to go further by passing laws that would ban local governments from investing in Iran or entities that do business with it, among other things.

The letter can be viewed here.

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Ted Cruz has released a five-and-a-half minute video of him and Jeff Roe, his campaign manager, addressing campaign staff after he dropped out of the presidential race.

Click here to view the video, entitled “No Regrets.”

Disclosure: Oncor and Energy Future Holdings have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

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