Editorial: Texans died. Enough excuses. Lawmakers must get answers on power outages.
By The Editorial Board February 25, 2021
The completely preventable, man-made tragedy of last week’s power failure that has now claimed dozens of Texas lives — young and old, but mostly lower-income people who couldn’t afford to escape to Cancun — was a colossal failure of Texas government, including the people who lead it and the people who make the laws. They had one job above all others: to ensure basic services that sustain our civilization, our economy and life itself.
This morning, committees in both houses of the Texas Legislature will hear testimony about what went wrong, and how Texas failed so catastrophically to keep the lights, heat and water on for millions of residents as freezing temperatures turned deadly.
Texas lawmakers who created this system, the Public Utility Commission that oversees it, and the governor who appoints the commission’s board, cannot undo the death, the suffering or the billions in damage.
All they can do is answer for it — and take the strongest steps possible to make sure it never happens again. That should be a given. But in Texas, where our leaders failed to act after previous failures in 1989 and again in 2011, we have learned not to trust.
Unless we Texans demand accountability from our elected leaders, stay engaged until it happens, and track progress this legislative session on reforms, nothing will change. Inertia and the influence of industry lobbyists are powerful. But your calls and emails to lawmakers, your sharing of news coverage, your posts on social media — and yes, the threat of losing your vote — are more powerful still.
Yes, we must know what mistakes ERCOT made in the days before it assured Texans it was prepared for the highly anticipated polar vortex. What about the days that followed as ice knocked offline one source of power after another? Its leaders, and its board members — five of whom announced resignationsTuesday amid withering criticism from Abbott — must be held accountable.A decade ago, the Sunset Advisory Commission recommended enhanced state oversight of ERCOT and reforms to make its board more independent of energy firms that contribute to the grid it manages. Lawmakers who failed to make those changes have another chance.
Yet, it’s still unclear how significantly ERCOT, the grid’s traffic cop, contributed to the crisis. Texans need to know: how much authority did ERCOT truly have to ensure reliability and how much is the little-known entity being used as a scapegoat by Abbott and others?