No rate hikes, no disconnects, shut down Spruce!

San Antonio City Council

Linda Monsivais

On March 1, CPS Energy's unjust 3.85 percent rate hike will go into effect. CPS Energy will also begin their violent legacy of disconnections, harming thousands of families in the process. We firmly believe that every breathing person in our city deserves electricity without the burden of having to sacrifice other needs to keep the lights on!

Our grassroots coalition is on the ground talking to neighbors and bringing awareness to these changes coming to households across the city. Inequitable rate increase and disconnections for non-payment, that could affect up to 100,000 ratepayers and growing, will undoubtedly affect the most vulnerable San Antonians. We are petitioning city council to demand a moratorium on disconnections, no more rate hikes until the rate structure is fair, and a to close down the biggest polluter in our region, Spruce Coal Plant, without any false solutions to the climate crisis that would continue to pollute our city.

Please sign our petition to hold our officials accountable.

Petition by
Diana Lopez
San Antonio, Texas
Sponsored by
Default_group_icon
San Antonio, TX

To: San Antonio City Council
From: [Your Name]

I am a CPS Energy customer and urge you to support our community campaign of no more rate hikes and no disconnects. Our community needs a fair and equitable rate structure. As a council representative, you have the power to reign in our public utilities to bring about structural changes that would put the public back in city public service and truly address and mitigate the climate crisis.

ON DISCONNECTIONS:
Disconnecting San Antonio resident’s utilities amid another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is both inhumane and a human rights violation.

Many San Antonio residents have yet to recover from socio-economic hardships exacerbated by the onset of the pandemic. COVID-19 further exposed a system of inequity that burdens low-income, Black, indigenous, and people of color across the country and right here in our own city. Many of our most vulnerable residents are faced with the painstaking decision of meeting basic needs or paying down debts accrued during the pandemic.

While the national evictions moratorium was extended this summer, utility moratoriums have not fared as well. Early this summer both saws and CPS Energy announced they would begin their legacy of disconnections starting October 1.

By its own accounts, CPS Energy reported more than 100,000 residential customers are past due or eligible for disconnections while SAWS reported more than 64,000 accounts are more than 60 days past due. The average outstanding utility debt for CPS and SAWS is a little more than $600. This is no small amount, especially for low-income families as well as those indebted to both utilities.

Although local and federal utility assistance programs are available for those who apply, families who need the assistance the most need to know about the assistance programs and then figure out how to apply for them. As CPS scrambles to get the word out into the community and have customers apply for assistance, the issue becomes whether they will have enough time to reach all those at risk of disconnections in time. With such a small workforce dedicated to community outreach, we believe the answer is no. Families who need the most assistance also face additional barriers like literacy, limited to no broadband, lack of knowledge about assistance programs and the applications process. As we are hearing on the ground, many utility customers do not know about assistance programs available to them. To make matters worse, assistance programs only chip away a fraction of debt and continue to leave families in utility debt.

We seek to abolish disconnections for nonpayment for all households at or below 200% of the poverty level or reliant on home medical devices and a third-party review of CPS's policies around disconnections.

ON RATE INCREASES:
COVID-19 is not the only factor when it comes to utility debt. Unfair rate structures are another reason residential ratepayers are struggling to keep up with their bills.

This year's approved rate increase, set to take effect on March 1, came with no rate restructuring.

Low-income households and households conserving or using less energy get hurt the most by our unfair rate structures at CPS Energy and SAWS.

CPS Energy claims it is among the most affordable energy companies in the country, however this is only accurate for the business community. CPS comes in second in the nation for cheap rates for the business class, all the while burdening residential ratepayers by having them subsidize the energy usage of the business community and of the highest users.

The legacy of prioritizing and incentivizing usage as a business model needs to end.

The city must declare that no longer business rates be lower than those of residential ratepayers. Instead, the moment calls for bold leadership in making sure people get enough water and energy for their health and life without being committed to generational utility debt.

Additionally, CPS & SAWS have made bad decisions on planning our future energy and water security that are not beneficial to the community. By expanding production without the need for the surplus, like in the case of Vista Ridge and the Spruce Coal Plants and increasing debt, our utilities have essentially passed on those debts to ordinary ratepayers through increased fixed charges.

This is how our utilities choose to treat our community. Our utilities should serve the well being of residents and not of the corporations.

Council has the authority to set policy to protect residential ratepayers from price gouging from CPS & SAWS.

ON COAL FIRED POWER PLANT:
Not only does San Antonio's hometown utility, CPS Energy, have unjust and inequitable rates, but it's heavily dependent on dirty fossil fuels that are overheating our planet and putting the health of BIPOC community members at risk. Such is the case with the unreliable and dangerous Spruce coal plant.

Yet even with stern warnings from the international research community about accelerated climate violence, CPS has no plan to retire the largest climate violator in our region.

Coal is a broken and extractive system of dig, burn and dump. The Spruce coal plant failed San Antonio and the rest of Texas during Winter Storm URI when it failed to power up, contributing to the multi-day blackout. Now, during the heat of summer in peak ozone season, it's a public health threat as the biggest single source of smog-forming, asthma-worsening, pollution for Bexar County. We are overdue for a serious transition to safer, less costly, cleaner options, like energy efficiency, wind, and solar. Our mayor, city council and CPS have a responsibility to make a commitment to retire San Antonio's last coal plant and commit to an open and public process of retiring the coal plant by 2030, at the latest.

Any plan to retire the Spruce Coal Plant must go before our community for review and must not include any false solutions to the climate crisis, like converting Spruce into a natural gas plant. In order to save our city, fossil fuels must be kept in the ground!