SAN ANTONIO – Facing a billion-dollar financial hole from February’s deadly winter storm, CPS Energy has now spent over $2.5 million in outside fees to fight those bills, records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.
The beleaguered utility has paid five outside law firms a total of $2,008,922.04 for storm-related legal work, according to figures released by CPS officials June 11.
This total includes more than a million dollars paid to Dentons US LLP, CPS Energy’s lead counsel in its ongoing lawsuit against ERCOT, the manager of the state’s electric grid.
CPS officials sued ERCOT in March, weeks after the deadly storm, claiming the organization allowed power companies to be overcharged for energy and short paid market participants billions of dollars, including approximately $18 million owed to CPS.
CPS officials have also filed close to 20 lawsuits against natural gas providers, claiming these companies price gouged during the winter blast, charging CPS upwards of 15,000% more for natural gas than what had been the market rate days earlier.
Energy experts and officials from some of the companies targeted by the suits say the utility’s poor risk management is to blame.
CPS Energy has also retained outside legal counsel to help with wrongful death and property damage lawsuits, records show.
At least six San Antonio families have filed suits accusing CPS Energy of contributing to the deaths of their loved ones in February.
Separately, the utility has paid a total of $562,908.90 to a pair of unnamed consultants for advice on policy issues and gas litigation, records show.
CPS Energy officials this week refused to expand on the four-word descriptions used to illustrate the type of work being done by each outside consultant.
One consultant has been paid $15,000 to be an expert on policy issues, while the other has been paid $547,908.90 to provide gas litigation expert support.
CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams defended the suits, which legal experts have called “long shots,” during an interview with KSAT’s Steve Spriester late last month.
“Well number one the cost of lawyers to help us work through these things and consultants is very much a minimal part of a billion dollar bill. We’re not talking that. We’re trying to save the billion dollars,” said Gold-Williams.
Utility officials for several months have refused to make Gold-Williams available for an interview with the Defenders.
Earlier this month CPS Energy Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel Carolyn Shellman and two other senior members of the utility’s legal team announced their resignations.
CPS officials last week named Shanna Ramirez Interim Chief Legal & Ethics Officer (CLEO), General Counsel and Board Secretary.