CPS Energy faces a potential $81 million loss if it does not impose a rate increase for customers.
CPS Energy faces a potential $81 million loss if it does not impose a rate increase for customers. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Three of CPS Energy’s top lawyers are leaving the utility, including its highest-ranking attorney who has been with the utility since 2006.

Carolyn Shellman, the utility’s chief legal officer and general counsel who oversees its legal audit and governmental affairs departments, has submitted her resignation, along with Zandra Pulis and Abigail Ottmers, who are both deputy general counsel, according to utility officials.

“Recently, several executives, including our chief legal officer, have decided to leave the company,” CPS Energy Chief Administrative Officer Lisa Lewis said in a prepared statement. “We are grateful for their many contributions over their tenure and wish them the very best.”

Efforts to reach Shellman, Pulis, and Ottmers were not immediately successful on Thursday.

The resignations come amid a legal blitz by CPS Energy against the Texas grid operator and multiple energy and pipeline companies that supply it with natural gas. CPS Energy officials hope to reduce bills adding up to approximately $1.1 billion from wholesale power and natural gas suppliers accrued during the February winter storm. As the entire state experienced five days of frigid weather, the utility struggled to obtain adequate gas supplies and operate several of its power plants.

Court records show the utility has 17 lawsuits pending in state district courts in Bexar County. Attorneys with the law firms Dentons U.S. and Chasnoff, Mungia, Valkenaar, Pepping, & Stribling are serving as outside counsel in the litigation with ERCOT and gas companies.

Other senior utility leaders have also announced their departures from CPS Energy in recent months. Gary Gold, the utility’s chief financial officer who has worked for CPS Energy since 2005, will retire at the end of June. Cris Eugster, its former chief operating officer, left in February to become CEO of nationwide power producer NAES Corp.

CPS Energy leaders have not yet announced who would fill the roles left by three of its top lawyers. A CPS Energy spokeswoman said the last day for Pulis and Ottmers is Friday but was not immediately able to confirm a departure date for Shellman.

“We are fortunate to have a solid team of other executives and attorneys whose strong skills and abilities will help us through our transition,” Lewis’ statement said. “As organizational decisions are made, that information will be announced publicly.”

CPS Energy is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

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Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.