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Petition Backing Reforms For CPS Energy In San Antonio Stalls

Organizers behind the "Recall CPS" petition fell short of the 20,000 signature threshold to put a city charter amendment on San Antonio's ballot in May.

The grassroots organizations Move Texas, Texas Rising, and Southwest Workers Union were behind the petition drive. They managed to collect 14,000 signatures. But during a news conference on Wednesday they said their public outreach efforts were hampered in part because of the pandemic.

The "Recall CPS" charter amendment reforms called for the city-owned utility to abolish its board of trustees and replace it with city council members.

In addition to changes in oversight, the charter amendment called for the creation of an advisory committee on rate structure.

Organizers were also seeking more protection for eligible low income residents to keep their rates affordable and prevent disconnections.

The petition also called for the closure of a coal plant by 2030 and for the utility to make environmental protection a top priority.

They say their fight to make CPS Energy accountable to the public will continue.

"The petition initiative and its goals are not over," said Lexy Garcia, a regional field coordinator for Texas Rising.

“We are continuing to make sure the voice behind every signature and every rate payer is heard. Over 14,000 people expressed that recalling the CPS Energy board of trustees is the only way toward meaningful public engagement, fair rates, and closing the Spruce coal plant by 2030,” she said.

DeeDee Belmares, the climate justice organizer for Public Citizen, also committed to the continued push for reform.

“While we do not have the petition signatures to get a charter amendment on the May 2021 municipal ballot, our campaign is far from over from holding CPS Energy accountable to the community," she said.

“We will continue to engage rate payers about transparency, public participation and closing the polluting Spruce Coal Plant. We also have an obligation to the thousands of people who signed the petition who want to reform the utility,” Belmares said.

Legal action also stalled the effort.

Lawyers for CPS Energy argued in court in November the petition was invalid because it violated the covenants of bonds that CPS sold.

The attorneys said the move would have violated the agreements investors made when they purchased CPS bonds.

Petition organizers argued the reforms would not have affected CPS' ability to generate revenue and pay its bond debt.

Some members of the reform movement also took exception with the compensation of CPS Energy President and CEO Paula Gold-Williams. Her base salary and bonuses added up to more than $930,000 in 2019.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian