By DeeDee Belmares
In late August, Our Power PAC, a coalition of local progressive groups, launched a petition to force more accountability from CPS Energy.
This charter amendment petition campaign, called Recall CPS Energy, aims to dramatically transform the way CPS Energy is operated. CPS Energy is the nation’s largest municipally owned gas and electric utility company, but too often it operates like a private business. This is one of the several reasons we’re seeking fundamental change at CPS. Let’s explore all of them.
Under the current structure, the CPS Board of Trustees has too much power. Major policy decisions for things like rate setting rest entirely on the board. The trustees have broad, sweeping authority to set rates without allowing customers an opportunity to provide input. While city council must vote on any final rate changes, the board of trustees still maintains control with little oversight. The charter amendment would eliminate the current board members and replace them with city council members and the mayor. Also, the mayor would be chair of the board.
Our Power Pac’s petition also calls for the establishment of an advisory committee consisting of volunteer citizens appointed by the city council that would review and give input on rates and power generation, among other things. The committee would ensure that customers who use the most electricity pay more and vulnerable customers pay less. Lower income residents would also not be subjected to utility disconnections.
CPS Energy uses different sources to generate power for customers: Natural gas, coal, wind, and nuclear. The Spruce Coal plant was the last coal-power plant built in Texas. It emits millions of metric tons of carbon pollution into the air we breathe. Emissions from coal powered plants are also the leading contributor to climate change. CPS Energy knows this and still doesn’t have any plans to shut these plants down before 2040. The charter amendment would put San Antonio on a path to clean renewable energy by shutting the Spruce Plant no later than 2030.
In 2019, the compensation for CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold Williams was almost $1 million per year. This extravagant salary and bonus was approved by the board of trustees. In fact, Williams has received a raise every year since she was permanently voted CEO in 2017. Under a charter amendment change, the salary of the utility chief would be set by city council. In the most economically segregated city in the country with a community dealing with the economic hardship from COVID-19, reigning in the salary of our public servants is the right thing to do.
The people of San Antonio deserve a utility company that is transparent and held accountable for decisions that affect our health and economic well-being. To sign this critically important petition aimed at creating a healthier San Antonio for all of us, please visit www.RecallCPS.com