US Woman files class-action lawsuit against Texas power provider after $9,500 electricity bill
Energy-rich Texas suffers energy nightmare with ongoing power outages
Even mighty Texas, the energy powerhouse of America, is feeling the wrath of Mother Nature. © Matthew Busch/Bloomberg/Getty Images Pump jacks operate in the Permian Basin in Midland, Texas, U.S, on Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The arctic freeze gripping the central U.S. is raising the specter of power outages in Texas and ratcheting up pressure on energy prices already trading at unprecedented levels. Photographer: Matthew Busch/Bloomberg via Getty Images A deep freeze this week in the Lone Star state, which relies on electricity to heat many homes, is causing power demand to skyrocket.
Aagainst embattled wholesale electricity provider Griddy seeks more than $1 billion due to the Texas company's alleged "price gouging" that caused "economic and mental anguish."
The civil complaint, filed in Harris County District Court by Mont Belvieu, Texas, resident Lisa Khoury, also wants Griddy to "fully forgive late or non-payments associated with such bills, including removing any negative credit reporting and penalties, and to refund payments already made on such bills."
Millions of Texans were left without power or clean water last week due to a winter storm that froze.
Who's actually to blame for the Texas power disaster?
With millions of Texans still without power in the wake of a winter storm and frigid temperatures, everyone is looking for someone to blame. © Ron Jenkins/Getty Images FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 16: Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas as storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) Many Democrats are blaming Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for failing to adequately prepare for the storm.
And those who did dodge blackouts have been hit withbecause scarce power radically spiked prices in the Lone Star state’s market-based system.
The lawsuit paints Khoury as a typical victim of the winter blast that resulted in power to bills of more than $9,000 for the retiree who lives about 30 miles east of downtown Houston.
"I mean this is life changing," Khoury told. "You don't just pay a $9,500 in a week."
Khoury's electricity bills typically run between $200 and $250 a month, which is paid directly from her bank account in intervals of $150, according to the lawsuit.
Between Feb. 13 and 18, Griddy withdrew $150 eight times from Khoury, for $1,200, the complaint said. She put a stop payment on the withdrawals before Griddy told her on Feb. 19 that she still owed it another $8,235.
Texas' woes foreshadows future climate-change disasters
Hot-weather infrastructure and an isolated power grid have left the state unprepared for extreme weather.The storm, which froze nuclear facilities, coal and gas power stations, and wind turbines, offers a cautionary tale of how extreme weather can paralyze critical energy facilities and throw vast swaths of country into chaos. Across the U.S., experts says, states like Texas are largely unprepared for a range of climate emergencies, from Arctic-like cold in warmer regions to widespread flooding, droughts, wildfires and other symptoms of a rapidly heating planet.
"Griddy charged Khoury in the middle of a disaster,". "She and her husband mostly were without power in their home from Wednesday, February 17 to Thursday, February 18, 2021. At the same time, Khoury hosted her parens and in-laws, who are in their 80s, during the storm. Even then, she continued to minimize any power usage because of the high prices."
A Griddy rep could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
Michael Webber, a professor of energy resources at University of Texas at Austin, said he's not sure civil action against Griddy will hold up in court.
"For the most part I think the risk of these variable rate plans was well-known, so it’s not clear that a lawsuit will be victorious," he said Friday. "It’s hard for people to go from $50 a month to $5,000 a month, but that doesn’t mean the bills are illegal."
The professor holds more hope that state lawmakers could engineer a bailout that would protect people from four- or five-digit power bills now and in the future.
"I would not be surprised if the legislature intervenes to protect consumers from the price shock and then does something like regulating or prohibiting those plans in the future," Webber said.
Congress is writing up Biden’s stimulus plan. Here’s what’s in it. .
Stimulus checks and UI, but not a $15 minimum wage: the state of the House’s stimulus bill so far.The House of Representatives has drafted and passed its version of the budget reconciliation package, which includes $1,400 stimulus checks for those making up to $75,000 and $400 expanded weekly unemployment insurance benefits through August 29. It also contains a restaurant rescue fund, money for reopening schools, and Democrats’ long-sought-after funding for state and local governments, among other items. House Democrats included a $15 minimum wage provision in their version of the bill, but that’s a non-starter in the Senate.