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Houston, Fort Worth Mayors Say Government Should Pay for Texans' $5,000 Electric Bills

© REUTERS / Go NakamuraAn electrical substation is seen after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 20, 2021.
An electrical substation is seen after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston, Texas, U.S. February 20, 2021. - Sputnik International, 1920, 22.02.2021
Abnormally cold and snowy weather swept through several regions of the US, with at least 58 casualties. Texas has become one of the worst-hit states since the bad weather has led to massive power outages, the suspension of refineries and other businesses.

The mayors of two of the largest cities in Texas, Sylvester Turner of Houston and Betsy Price of Fort Worth, said that the state should help to pay some of the enormously high energy bills sent to residents after the destructive deadly winter storm that triggered widespread blackouts.

As the only US state not connected to the country's central power grid, Texas has a deregulated energy market that enables consumers to select from several competing sources of electricity.

Demand has skyrocketed when a record-breaking freeze engulfed a state unaccustomed to severe weather, and those Texans who were still able to turn on their lights found themselves with electricity bills of $5,000 or more for only five days of use.

“The bill should go to the state of Texas,” Turner said in an interview with CBS News on Sunday. “When they’re getting these exorbitant electricity bills and they’re having to pay for their homes, repair their homes, they should not have to bear the responsibility.”

​In a corresponding statement, Mayor Betsy Price of Fort Worth said that both the state and the federal government should be expected to assist Texans with the bills, answering the anchor's question of whether the mayor supports the notion of the federal government stepping up to cover electricity bills.

"I think that we will go to the feds. It will probably be a partner on this. We'll just have to work through it and see," Price said. "... there's going to have to be dollars follow that to help these folks who don't have the ability to pay this themselves. And that's going to have to come through the federal government."

According to The Dallas Morning News, one of the local suppliers offering a wholesale tariff plan, Griddy, had encouraged thousands of its customers to leave them for another supplier several days before the storm to escape high prices, although many Texans felt it would take too long to change their supplier.

“We made the unprecedented decision to tell our customers — whom we worked really hard to get — that they are better off in the near term with another provider,” the CEO of the energy provider, Michael Fallquist, said. “We want what’s right by our consumers, so we are encouraging them to leave. We believe that transparency and that honesty will bring them back.”

On Saturday, state Governor Greg Abbott called an emergency meeting of state legislators to resolve the issue, issuing a statement where he said they were responsible for ensuring that Texans "do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills."

​State Congressmen also condemned the surge in energy prices.

​Social media users have shared their experiences with the extraordinary electricity bills, with some of them reportedly reaching up to $17,000.

​Earlier, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has initiated an investigation into the reasons why energy companies failed to cope with the weather conditions and which caused a huge rise in electricity prices for end-users, saying that the companies "grossly mishandled" the emergency situation.

People carry groceries from a local gas station on February 15, 2021 in Austin, Texas - Sputnik International, 1920, 21.02.2021
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On Saturday, US President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas that makes federal funds available to individuals who have experienced hardship due to the weather anomaly, including help with temporary housing and home repair aid and low-cost loans.

This weekend, all power plants were reportedly back online and power was restored to most homes as the weather returned to normal, but water sources remain a problem, with millions of Texans being urged to boil water before using it.

Overall, at least two dozen people died and more than 4 million people were left without power at the storm's peak, as a result of abnormally low temperatures and heavy snowfall.

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