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Winter Storm 2021

Texas officials block electricity providers from sending bills, disconnecting utilities for nonpayment

Texans are reporting receiving exorbitant electric bills despite not having power during the storm. One Texan, according to The New York Times, received a $16,752 electric bill.

Snow surrounds an Austin Energy station in Austin on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021.

Winter Storm 2021

As Texas faced record-low temperatures this February and snow and ice made roads impassable, the state’s electric grid operator lost control of the power supply, leaving millions without access to electricity. As the blackouts extended from hours to days, top state lawmakers called for investigations into the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Texans demanded accountability for the disaster. We have compiled a list of resources for Texans who are seeking help, or places to get warm. To get updates sent straight to your phone, text "hello" to 512-967-6919 or visit this page to sign up.

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Gov. Greg Abbott said he and other state leaders are working fast to find solutions for homeowners and renters facing steep electricity bills after a winter storm left many Texans without power for days.

After Abbott convened what his office described as an "emergency meeting" Saturday with lawmakers to discuss the issue, the Public Utility Commission on Sunday met to sign two orders, including one that would direct energy providers to temporarily stop disconnecting customers from power or water because they have not paid.

The commission also signed an order to stop companies from sending invoices or bill estimates to customers “until we work through issues of how we are going to financially manage the situation we are in,” commission Chair DeAnn Walker said.

“Disconnect for non pays cannot occur on a Sunday and that’s why we're acting today at this hour... trying to stop any from occurring tomorrow,” Walker said before the three-member commission approved the orders.

Both Abbott and the commission's meetings come as more Texans are reporting receiving exorbitant electric bills despite not having power during the storm. One Texan, according to The New York Times, received a $16,752 electric bill. Not every resident will see the spikes in their bills.

Abbott, speaking during a news conference Sunday in San Antonio, called the recent spike in energy bills "the top priority for the Texas Legislature right now" and said lawmakers were working on a bipartisan basis to help address the issue.

February Winter Storm 2021

  • When will my water come back? How can I get water in the meantime?

  • Will I get a large energy bill?

  • How can I get updates?

  • I was without power for more than a day. Why are people calling these rolling outages?

  • Wait, we have our own power grid? Why?

  • I read online that wind turbines are the reason we lost power. Is that true?

  • How can I stay warm? How can I help others?

Along with Abbott, the heads of the Senate and House — Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, respectively — were also part of that Saturday meeting, as were chairs of the budget-writing Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees, among others.

Later this week, House and Senate committees will convene to investigate how outages happened and what roles entities like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas played in those power failures.

"Thursday begins the questioning of the stakeholders involved to find out if anything went wrong, what went wrong, who's to blame and, more importantly, what solutions moving forward we can do as a state Legislature ... to make sure this absolutely never happens again," said state Rep. Craig Goldman, a Fort Worth Republican who chairs the House Energy Resources Committee, during an NBC-DFW interview that aired Sunday.

Jolie McCullough contributed to this report.

Disclosure: New York Times has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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