CPS Energy attempting to block information on natural gas purchases from latest winter storm

Attorney for utility claims ‘change in circumstances’ is behind request to keep figures from being made public

CPS Energy officials have declined to release information on natural gas purchases from this month's winter storm. (Joshua Saunders, KSAT)

SAN ANTONIO – CPS Energy officials this week declined to release information related to natural gas purchases made ahead of the latest winter storm, claiming in a letter sent to the Texas Attorney General that the information is confidential.

The KSAT 12 Defenders requested the totals of gas purchases delivered to the utility from Jan. 20 to Feb. 3. In early February, freezing rain and subzero temperatures enveloped San Antonio and parts of several states, causing schools and many businesses to temporarily shut down.

An attorney representing CPS Energy, in a letter to the AG sent Thursday, asked that the information be withheld.

Utility officials had released information on gas purchases made ahead of Winter Storm Uri last year, following a similar request from the Defenders.

Those records showed CPS Energy received natural gas deliveries that jumped in quantity starting February 11, 2021 — days before Uri hit but days after some experts had already started predicting the blast could impact the infrastructure of utility companies.

By then, the price of natural gas on the spot market had already nearly doubled, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

In a February 10, 2021 news release, the same day CPS Energy received only 180,000 MMBtu (units of natural gas in Million British Thermal Units) of purchased natural gas, officials of the utility conceded the incoming arctic airmass could affect its equipment as well as the ERCOT grid.

On that critical day of storm preparation, records show the amount of natural gas delivered to CPS Energy actually decreased from the day before, when the utility received 190,000 units of purchased natural gas.

Internal records show an increase in natural gas deliveries to CPS Energy on Feb. 11, 2021. (KSAT)

“Last year, CPS Energy determined that even though the information was confidential under the TPIA (Texas Public Information Act), it would voluntarily release the information and withdrew its request for an AG opinion. However, due to a change in circumstances since that time, including ongoing litigation with certain gas suppliers, CPS Energy is unable to voluntarily release the confidential information in response to your February 9, 2022 request,” an attorney representing CPS Energy wrote via email Thursday.

The previous release of information on gas purchases, however, came after CPS Energy had already filed a vast majority of its lawsuits against natural gas suppliers in an effort to fight hundreds of millions of dollars in gas bills.

The utility has dismissed many of those suits, likely after settlements on how much was owed were reached, but, to date, has declined to say publicly what those settlement amounts were.

CPS Energy Interim President & CEO Rudy Garza on Feb. 2 said the utility had “done everything in our power” to prepare it for future weather events.

The improvements included millions of dollars spent on radiant heating for pipes, insulation, temporary enclosures, and heaters at CPS Energy power plants.

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About the Author:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.