‘Blame to go around’: Lawmakers promise tough questions in search of answers on Texas power outages
By James Barragan February 22, 2021
State lawmakers are promising to ask difficult questions at hearings Thursday that will explore why more than 4 million Texans went without power — many for days — in the middle of a paralyzing winter storm.
Lawmakers are expected to hear testimony from officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which manages the flow of power to more than 26 million Texans; the Railroad Commission, which oversees gas pipelines in the state; and the Public Utility Commission, which oversees utility infrastructure.
Sen. Angela Paxton, R-McKinney, said that the power outages were dangerous and deadly, and that she would demand answers to ensure that such mass power outages never happen again.
Paxton also said that communications from utility companies and ERCOT to the public “have not been transparent or timely.”
ERCOT entered emergency conditions and started rotating outages on Monday morning. Those outages led to some Texans being left days without power in freezing temperatures.
“That becomes very challenging for families and people with elderly parents who rely on that power to survive,” said Rep. Ana Hernandez, D-Houston, vice chair of the House State Affairs Committee. “They want to know that there’s accountability and how will we prevent this from happening again.”
But after new mass outages in extreme weather, lawmakers are questioning whether the state’s plans to “winterize” power generation facilities and infrastructure have fallen short.
“The Legislature shares some of that blame because we probably didn’t stand on them hard enough to get them winterized,” said Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth.
Lawmakers will also question the Public Utility Commission’s oversight of ERCOT and its actions leading up to last week’s power outages.