orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

State News

March 20, 2013

Continuing utility commission sparks House debate

AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House has voted to reauthorize for another decade the Public Utility Commission, which oversees the state's electric power market.

It also transferred to the commission the authority over water regulation that had been handled by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

But Wednesday's vote came only after the bill's sponsor, Corsicana Republican Rep. Byron Cook, tried to substantially alter his own proposal.

Cook endorsed an amendment removing the commission's ability to issue emergency "cease-and-desist" orders to stop electric providers from actions that could affect the state's power supply.

Those powers had been criticized as anti-free market by conservative groups, and many of Cook's GOP colleagues urged him to back the change.

But supporters, including many Democrats, countered that cease-and-desist powers better-protect consumers.

The amendment was easily defeated.

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