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Court rules Texas agency kept power prices too high during freeze

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A man walks to his friend’s home in a neighborhood without electricity as snow covers the BlackHawk neighborhood in Pflugerville, Texas, U.S. February 15, 2021. Bronte Wittpenn/Austin American-Statesman/USA Today Network via REUTERS

The Texas agency that regulates the state’s power utilities overstepped its bounds and kept power prices too high in the wake of a deadly 2021 deep freeze that led to widespread electricity outages, according to a Texas appeals court ruling on Friday.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) exceeded “limits on its power” by keeping prices at a cap of $9,000 per megawatt hour during the storm, which struck in mid-February two years ago, the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals in Austin ruled.

More than 200 people died during Storm Uri as power and gas prices soared to record highs in parts of Texas and in other U.S. Central states, costing utilities and their consumers billions of dollars.

The commission violated requirements that it “use competitive methods to the greatest extent feasible and impose the least impact on competition,” the court said in its decision.

The PUTC declined to comment on the ruling, citing its policy against remarking on pending litigation.

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