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Natural gas giant threatens to cut off fuel for power plants in multimillion-dollar winter storm fee dispute

Dallas-based Energy Transfer says the gas will continue to flow to Luminant's power plants, but did not say for how long. Meanwhile, winter weather approaches.

DALLAS — Editor's note: The video above on why Texas is on its own power grid is from June.

A fight is unfolding between two Texas energy giants, and power to 400,000 homes is being used as leverage.

One of Texas’ largest power providers on Wednesday asked state regulators to intervene and stop Dallas-based pipeline company Energy Transfer from halting natural gas service to its power plants.

Luminant Corp., a subsidiary of Vistra Corp., on Wednesday filed the 149-page document with the Texas Railroad Commission.

The filing says Energy Transfer has threatened to stop providing natural gas to its plants as soon as Monday over $21.6 million in fees Energy Transfer says it is owed in connection with last February's winter storm. 

Luminant's filing included a Jan. 13 letter from Energy Transfer stating that if payment is “not received within ten (10) days” it would no longer be able to “deliver gas” to Luminant’s gas-fired power plants.

Hours after Luminant’s filing, Energy Transfer sent a response to the commission stating that it will continue to supply Luminant’s plants with natural gas while it tries to work out the fee dispute. Energy Transfer asked the commission to delay any rulings for now.

"We will continue to sell them gas pursuant to the same process, terms and conditions that have been in place since Dec. 1, 2021," an Energy Transfer spokesperson said in a statement late Wednesday to WFAA.

Sources tell WFAA that the dispute is ruffling feathers all the way up to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. Kelcy Warren, co-founder of Energy Transfer Partners, is one of Abbott’s biggest donors. He gave the governor a $1 million political contribution last year. 

Luminant's five natural gas-fueled plants supplied by Energy Transfer’s pipelines provide 2,000 megawatts of electricity and serves about 400,000 “Texas homes, businesses, and critical infrastructure such as hospitals and schools,” the filing says.

Two of them – one in Graham and another in Trinidad – are served only by Energy Transfer’s pipelines, according to the filing.

Three others have access to other pipelines, but may not be able to operate at full capacity if Energy Transfer “discontinued service,” the filing says.

“Respondents’ threat to terminate service in the middle of winter is illegal and grossly irresponsible and should be prohibited by this Commission,” the filing says.

According to the filing, Luminant spent approximately $1.5 billion for natural gas during the February winter storm, twice its planned natural gas cost to fuel its entire Texas fleet for a full year. The filing says Luminant paid Energy Transfer more than $600 million for natural gas during the winter storm.

Luminant’s position is that the $21.6 million in fees are illegal and would not withstand regulatory scrutiny.

The power company’s contract for natural gas ended in November, according to the filing, the company has been buying natural gas without a contract since then.

Energy Transfer reported last year publicly that it had made $2.4 billion “from the storm for 2021.”