Texas Governor Greg Abbott rebuffed the states second-ranking official, who has called for reversing billions of dollars in power overcharges stemming from last months historic winter storm.

Abbott said he doesnt have the authority to comply with Lieutenant Governor Dan Patricks demand that $16 billion in excessive electricity costs be retroactively erased. This is the first time the leading Republicans in state government have publicly clashed over the pricing issue.

In a letter released late Friday, Abbott also voiced support for embattled Public Utility Commissioner Arthur DAndrea, who was

publicly excoriated by Patrick and lawmakers this week over his refusal to reverse the charges. DAndrea infuriated some lawmakers on Thursday when he said the grid managers decision to keep power prices elevated at the maximum-allowed $9,000-per-megawatt-hour rate was justified, and that altering them at this stage would do more harm than good.

It is clear to me there is a difference of opinion of whether there was a billing error or there was a deliberate decision to take action to save the lives of Texans in their homes, Abbott said in his letter. You asked that I intervene to ensure the right thing is done. The Governor does not have independent authority to accomplish the goals you seek.

The dispute underscores just how

contentious Texas power-market crisis has become. Lawmakers, regulators and companies are all at odds over how to settle a $3 billion financial shortfall stemming from sky-high electricity prices during the energy crisis that left millions in the dark for days.

In the meantime, two companies have filed for bankruptcy and more than a dozen others face default. If the states grid operator isnt able to cover the debt, it will be spread out to all market participants and, eventually, to consumers.

The widening rift between two of the Texas GOPs most-ambitious politicians sets the stage for a contest between state house leaders who are sympathetic to the governors stance and a senate overwhelmingly in favor of Patricks approach.

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