Beto O'Rourke says utility bills rising as Gov. Greg Abbott forces Texans to pay for February freeze

Beto O'Rourke meets with supporters at a campaign appearance in San Antonio. - MERADITH GARCIA
Meradith Garcia
Beto O'Rourke meets with supporters at a campaign appearance in San Antonio.
Beto O'Rourke's isn't just accusing Gov. Greg Abbott of being asleep at the wheel during the Texas' deadly February freeze — the former Democratic congressman is blasting Abbott for passing on its steep cost on to ratepayers.

In a video message shared late last week, O'Rourke, who's running to unseat Abbott, said the two-term GOP governor and his appointees to the Public Utility Commission are taking the “tens of billions” needed to avoid more blackouts this winter from Texans instead of the power companies who bear responsibility.

“Many of you are already seeing rising utility bills,” O’Rourke said in the clip. “In fact, the average Texas household, by the end of this winter, will see an increase in their utility bills of between $20 and $50 per month going forward.”

O'Rourke also said the PUC, at a meeting last week, moved to levy $15-$20 in additional taxes to ratepayers to help ensure the reliability of Texas' power grid — the only one in the nation not connected to those of other states. Texans will end up paying this “Abbott Tax,” O'Rourke added, "not just for months but for years in the future.”

Abbott has repeatedly promised that the Texas grid will experience no interruptions this winter, pointing to laws the Republican-controlled state legislature passed this year requiring power providers to "winterize" their facilities.

However, critics ranging from former Texas utility regulators to environmental groups have warned those measures don't go far enough and largely let natural-gas companies avoid the upgrades.

In his message, O'Rourke went after Abbott for cozying up to the same powerful energy companies responsible for the widespread outages. He accused the governor of holding meetings with executives from those businesses on the same day as the PUC discussed adding new taxes to consumers' electrical bills.

"These are the energy executives who have donated more than $4.6 million to his reelection campaign, helping to explain why he's done nothing to protect the grid going forward," O'Rourke said. "He's more interested in looking out for his campaign contributors than he is in protecting all of us in the state of Texas."

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