The Texas Railroad Commission (RRC), which regulates the state's oil and natural gas industries, approved a financing order worth roughly $3.4 billion to prevent spikes in gas bills for over 4.2 million homes and businesses from last February's Winter Storm Uri.

This is one of several measures taken by Texas agencies to protect consumers and avoid a repeat of last winter's energy emergencies that occurred after days of freezing weather cut gas supplies and shut numerous power plants and gas pipes. 

Winter Storm Uri killed more than 200 people, caused power and gas prices to spike to record highs in many parts of the country and left around 4.5 million Texas homes and businesses without power and heat - in many cases for days.

The RRC said in a release on Tuesday that the financing order allows gas utilities to spread the cost of gas incurred during last year’s winter storm across multiple monthly bills rather than having customers face a large spike in one bill.

“Today's action by the Railroad Commission is not a bailout for natural gas utilities," said RRC Chairman Wayne Christian.

"This process simply allows the cost of high-cost gas during Winter Storm Uri to be reimbursed over time instead of in one massive bill," Christian said.

Gas utilities are authorized by law to pass through the cost of gas each month, without markup, the RRC said.

The RRC said the Texas Public Finance Authority will issue the customer rate-relief bonds, which total about $3.4 billion, within six months.

The bonds will be issued for units of Atmos Energy Corp, CenterPoint Energy Inc, ONE Gas Inc and five smaller Texas gas utilities to spread out charges for customers over an extended period of time.

(Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama) ((scott.disavino@thomsonreuters.com; +1 332 219 1922; Reuters Messaging: scott.disavino.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))