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CPS Energy wants San Antonio customers to pay $450 million in costs for February's winter freeze 

click to enlarge CPS Energy incurred more than $1 billion in natural gas and electrical expenses as February's winter storm gripped San Antonio. - JOE WEBB
  • Joe Webb
  • CPS Energy incurred more than $1 billion in natural gas and electrical expenses as February's winter storm gripped San Antonio.
Think those lawsuits CPS Energy filed against natural gas companies over February's catastrophic winter storm seek to recoup the entire $1 billion in charges the utility racked up during the crisis?

Think again.

City-owned CPS plans to put $450 million of that tab on the shoulders of ratepayers over the next 25 years, according to an Express-News analysis.

The utility expects to add an extra $1.50 monthly charge to bills to cover the costs it paid for natural gas and electricity during the days-long freeze, the daily reported. That's expected to factor into the 10% rate increase CPS is likely to present to city council before the end of the year.

CPS brass declined to answer the Express-News' questions about the decision to pass along nearly half of its $1 billion winter-storm tab to customers. The utility only appeared to disclose the plan for the first time during its Sept. 23 Rate Advisory Committee meeting, according to the report.

Meanwhile, CPS is still locked in a legal battle over the remaining $585 million of its storm-related expenses. In a flurry of suits filed this spring, it accused more than a dozen natural gas suppliers of price gouging during the disaster.

During the Rate Advisory Committee meeting, Chad Hoopingarner, CPS's vice president of strategic pricing, said the $450 million that would be passed along to ratepayers are storm-related charges "we consider to be legitimate.”

The proposed rate hike comes as CPS faces increased calls for public scrutiny.  Freshman District 1 council member Mario Bravo wants an independent study of the utility's management practices, saying it's operated more like a private company than a transparent public entity.

A recent poll of Bexar County voters also showed that public confidence in the utility has plummeted 25% since the fourth quarter.

CPS's approval rating sits at 44% in the poll released last week by Bexar Facts. Only 13% of respondents said they strongly approve of CPS, while another 28% percent said they strongly disapprove.

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