Contact: Chuck Mains
Eltife Files Legislation to Protect Electric Consumers
Austin — Senator Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, has filed Senate Bill 547 to preserve low electric rates for areas of North East Texas served by the Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), including the cities of Texarkana, Longview and Marshall. This bill reiterates Eltife's commitment to keeping electric costs lower than the lowest investor-owned utility rate in Texas.
Allowing the families of North East Texas to continue to enjoy low electric rates is one of my top priorities for this session," Eltife said. "I filed SB 547 to meet this objective and provide stability for our area's electric market."
In 2003, the Public Utility Council (PUC) passed an administrative ruling stating that areas in Texas that belong to SWEPCO would remain regulated until August 31, 2007, or when the market is ready.
Despite the PUC's ruling, Eltife said that electric consumers' interests would be best protected if the language was included in Texas law. "We need to put safeguards in place to protect customers from dramatic rate increases that could result from a deregulated electric market," said Eltife, a member of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee that has oversight of the PUC. "Residential rates in our area are on average 45 percent lower than those in neighboring cities that have entered the competitive market. It is my hope that this legislation will help preserve low rates North East Texans have come to enjoy."
Earl Roberts, former Mayor of Longview, is on the forefront of this issue. Roberts has been the lead spokesman for Cities Advocating Reasonable Deregulation (CARD), a group of elected officials in cities and counties served by SWEPCO. "The consumers in East Texas are vitally interested in keeping costs down especially in these economic times. We believe the path toward deregulation runs contrary to that interest," Roberts said.
Currently, retail electric companies in non-competitive areas must satisfy certain PUC criteria before deregulation can be introduced. SB 547 delays full deregulation in North East Texas and establishes a structure for the transition of certain investor-owned electric utilities into competition.