SAN ANTONIO – CPS Energy officials have dismissed at least three lawsuits against natural gas suppliers it accused of price gouging and charging exorbitant rates for fuel during February’s winter blast, court records obtained by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.
Officials with the embattled public utility, fraught with executive departures and turnover within its senior legal team in recent months, have refused to say if these dismissals came after the companies being sued agreed to negotiated settlements.
A majority of the lawsuits are still pending, Bexar County court records show.
During a utility Rate Advisory Committee (RAC) meeting, held virtually late last month, CPS Energy officials conceded that they have already paid $450 million of a reported $1.035 billion racked up in power and natural gas purchases during the storm.
“Fifty-five percent of the problem is still out there,” said RAC Chairman Reed Williams during the meeting, as he slightly underestimated the total percentage of fuel costs still owed.
CPS Energy officials said during the meeting the $450 million in fuel costs will be recovered as a fuel adjustment over the next 25 years. The adjustment will cause an increase in monthly customer bills of about $1.50, officials said.
Confirmation of the lawsuit dismissals comes just weeks after CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold Williams said publicly that the utility was “going to use the courts to try to prevail in this case.”
“You don’t hear that in the news because we’re just here fighting every single day, but that’s the basis of what’s happening,” said Gold Williams during a live KSAT Q&A on Sept. 21.
CPS Energy’s lead outside attorney for the natural gas lawsuits did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
Court records, however, show attorneys for CPS Energy dismissed its suit against DCP Midstream in late July.
CPS Energy officials had accused DCP, one of its natural gas suppliers, of charging up to $154 per unit of fuel, a more than 6,000 percent swing in pricing compared to the rate charged before the storm hit Texas.
“While CPS Energy had no choice but to continue purchasing natural gas to meet the essential needs of its customers, (DCP Midstream) chose to sell natural gas to CPS Energy during the 2021 winter disaster at exorbitant, unlawful, and unconscionable prices,” the original March 24 lawsuit stated.
The suit confirms CPS Energy eventually paid DCP for fuel charges up to $38.83 per unit, which was still more than 10 times the price of natural gas prior to the storm, but was contesting the amount owed beyond that figure.
The amount being contested by CPS Energy at the time the suit was filed was slightly over $9.7 million, court records show.
DCP officials did not respond to requests for comment about the suit’s dismissal.
More recently attorneys for CPS Energy rescinded its suits against Tenaska Marketing Ventures and Chevron Natural Gas, two of its other fuel suppliers.
The original court filings accused Tenaska of charging up to $299.76 per unit of fuel during the storm and Chevron of charging up to $150 per unit of fuel.
The amount owed to the two companies being contested by CPS Energy was over a combined $11.1 million, court records show.
Officials for Tenaska and Chevron did not respond to messages seeking comment for this story.
By early June, CPS Energy had spent over $2.5 million in outside fees to fight those bills. These fees included money paid to outside legal counsel and unnamed consultants for advice on policy issues and gas litigation.
These fees have likely ballooned since then, based on the flurry of activity in the pending lawsuits.
A CPS Energy spokeswoman released the following statement Tuesday evening:
“Our multi-pronged approach to protecting our customers has continuously involved both negotiation and litigation; however, CPS Energy is limited in what can be disclosed because confidentiality terms prevent us from commenting on anything further, which is customary in the litigation process.”
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