Approval rating of beleaguered CPS Energy continues to sink, Bexar Facts poll shows

Rating has dropped a full 25% since the fourth quarter of 2020, now sits at 44%

SAN ANTONIO – Amid continued bad publicity over its handling of February’s deadly winter storm and an impending request for a double-digit rate increase, the job approval rating of CPS Energy continues to sink, according to a new poll of Bexar County voters.

Only 44% of people who took part in the Bexar Facts-KSAT-San Antonio Report 2021 Q3 poll approve of the work being done by the municipally-owned utility company.

The results mark the second straight time CPS Energy’s approval rating came in under 50% in the poll, after it garnered a 46% approval rating in the first quarter of this year.

The polling, which took place over phone and email in English and Spanish between Sept. 21 and Sept. 27, gauged the opinions of 602 Bexar County voters.

CPS Energy officials had hoped to regain their customers’ trust, according to a statement released in April, after Bexar Facts Q1 poll results were released. Officials did not respond to requests seeking comment on the latest polling results.

Instead, of the local public officials and agencies surveyed in Q3, CPS Energy’s approval rating came in ahead of only Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, Governor Greg Abbott and scandal-plagued Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who remains under felony indictment for alleged securities fraud.

Since the fourth quarter of 2020, CPS Energy’s approval rating has plummeted from 69% to 44%.

The utility recently moved ahead with service disconnections, more than a year-and-a-half after pausing them due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials with CPS Energy are also moving toward proposing a likely double-digit rate increase which would likely take effect as soon as early spring 2022.

The utility has spent millions of dollars on outside legal fees fighting hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid bills for natural gas and power that it was forced to purchase during February’s winter blast.

Also contributing to its dwindling approval rating is how CPS Energy’s inner workings have been laid bare in recent months.

A Defenders investigation in September revealed allegations that President and CEO Paula Gold Williams repeatedly mistreated members of the utility’s senior leadership team.

A month earlier, in August, a Defenders investigation showed how CPS employees were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra compensation due to call-in errors during extreme weather situations.

Feb. 17, during the height of the deadly winter storm in San Antonio, Gold Williams and other senior leaders of the utility drafted a letter of support for her and management.

The note was written and edited during arguably the most critical day of the winter storm event, while hundreds of thousands of CPS Energy customers were without power.

CPS officials confirmed the letter, which highlighted Gold Williams’ zest for the job and leadership skills, was never sent to the public even though she and other leaders of the utility crafted it over several hours.

On Wednesday, the KSAT 12 Defenders will reveal the personnel complaints filed against Fred Bonewell prior to his promotion to CPS Energy chief operating officer this summer.

Read more:

‘Caught flat-footed’: Energy experts, lawsuits claim CPS has itself to blame for $700 million in natural gas bills

Continued assistance offered for residents in need amid CPS Energy disconnections

CPS Energy CEO’s treatment left senior staff ‘dejected, despondent and downtrodden,’ newly released complaint alleges


About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. He provides restaurant health reports for KSAT's "Behind the Kitchen Door." Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.