State Watch

Texas governor signs bills to improve power grid after deadly winter storm

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed two bills into law Tuesday aimed at improving the operation and oversight of the state’s power grid after broad criticism over the handling of a deadly winter storm.

One of the bills Abbott signed would require the weatherization of power generation facilities, natural gas facilities and transmission facilities to be better prepared for severe weather and would mandate that the Texas Railroad Commission and Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) inspect the facilities, with fines of up to $1 million for failure to properly weatherize them.

The new laws also establish the Texas Energy Reliability Council to boost harmonization between state agencies and industry during long power outages and bouts of extreme weather.

The laws do not include requirements regarding consumer infrastructure such as homes and pipes and do not mandate that weatherization occur until 2022.

“During the winter storm, too many Texans were left without heat or power for days on end, and I immediately made reforming ERCOT and weatherizing the power system emergency items,” Abbott said in a statement. “We promised not to leave session until we fixed these problems, and I am proud to say that we kept that promise.”

“These laws will improve the reliability of the electric grid and help ensure these problems never happen again,” he added. 

The signing of the new laws follows withering criticism leveled at Abbott and other state lawmakers after a devastating winter storm killed more than 150 people and left nearly 4.8 million homes and businesses without power.

The federal government stepped in to help Texas during the storm, funneling money to dozens of the state’s 254 counties and allowing individuals and businesses to apply for federal aid, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and grants to help support temporary housing and repairs for home damage.

Abbott was panned for the state’s lack of preparation for the freezing temperatures, criticism that was amplified after he touted the Texas power grid’s independence from federal energy sources and blamed the Green New Deal, which has not passed Congress, for the struggles.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) also drew sharp rebukes after he was seen leaving his Houston home with his family for a vacation in Cancun during the storm.

Tags Electric Reliability Council of Texas Energy in Texas Greg Abbott Ted Cruz Texas power crisis Weatherization

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