GOP Senator: Texas Blackout Deaths just the Cost of Doing Business

April 4, 2021

How about a grid that doesn’t treat living beings as collateral damage?

Houston Chronicle:

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan could help rebuild Texas highways and ports and push broadband into rural parts of the state, where up to 31 percent of residents do not have access to high-speed internet.

It could help Texas weatherize the grid in a way that wouldn’t stick consumers with the bill as well as guard the Gulf Coast against hurricanes and address racial disparities that have made Latino and Black communities particularly vulnerable to natural disasters.

The infrastructure pitch is the president’s latest attempt to offer up money for things Republican leaders in Texas have been looking for funds to cover, as well as some that state lawmakers have been reluctant to take on.

Houston Chronicle:

While President Joe Biden moves to expand the use of renewable energy nationwide, the Texas Legislature is doing the opposite, adding fees on solar and wind electricity production in the state in hopes of boosting fossil fuels.

Among the reforms of the state’s electric grid following last month’s deadly winter storms, Republicans in the Texas Senate have included new fees aimed at solar and wind companies that Democrats warn would damage the state’s standing as a national leader on renewable energy production, particularly wind power.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, said while wind and solar have expanded in Texas, those are “unreliable” sources of energy because they cannot be called up at a moment’s notice during an emergency like the freeze in February.

Here, a reminder that the Texas Blackouts were overwhelmingly the product of failed gas, coal, and nuclear units.

Below – Texas fat cats will once again benefit from a socialist bailout.

Texas Tribune:

Some of the changes would be pricey, though it’s next to impossible to estimate costs until you’ve got a working to-do list. But if “weatherizing” or “winterizing” the electricity grid was cheap, the companies in that food chain would have done it years ago.

Just one piece of that puzzle — weatherizing natural gas wells — merited a chart in a long report after a freeze and blackouts in 2011 in Texas written by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp. To get 50,000 gas wells into winter-fighting shape would cost between $125 million and $1.75 billion — a huge range dependent on the extent of the weatherizing.

That’s before you even get to electric generation, transmission and distribution.

And if it was cheap, the Texas Legislature would have required weatherization after that February 2011 storm. That same report from FERC/NERC recommended such a requirement, along with enhanced weather planning: “… The task force recommends that planning take into account not only forecasts but also historical weather patterns, so that the required procedures accommodate unusually severe events. Statutes should ideally direct utility commissions to develop best winterization practices for its state, and make winterization plans mandatory.”

Instead, the Texas Legislature required the Public Utility Commission to collect reports from electric companies detailing their weatherization prep, or the lack of it. Weatherization wasn’t required, but reports about it were.

Reports, as it turns out, didn’t keep Texans warm during almost a week of freezing weather last month.

And so, the idea of requiring winter prep is back.

House Speaker Dade Phelan put seven power outage-inspired bills on his priority list for the current legislative session. They include weatherizing the electricity infrastructure in the state, creating a statewide alert system for storms and power outages and overhauling the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the nonprofit that operates the state’s electric grid.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick called for the heads of ERCOT’s CEO and all three appointed Public Utility Commissioners. Within just a few days, he was 75% of the way through the list, after ERCOT’s board fired Bill Magness and the PUC’s DeAnn Walker and Shelly Botkin, both appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, resigned. Only Arthur D’Andrea, another Abbott appointee, remains at the PUC.

ERCOT’s board will name a new CEO, in the current scheme of things — a scheme that could be changed if lawmakers rework the grid operator’s governance. One legislative proposal would make it a state agency — to increase its accountability to the elected officials in the Capitol. That didn’t work particularly well with the PUC, as an example, but lawmakers will have some say over the replacement commissioners there; gubernatorial appointees have to win confirmation from Patrick’s Senate. ERCOT, at present, has more independence from the state’s political class.

How those politicians handle this could figure into the 2022 elections, which are, for them, not far away. The party primaries are less than a year away, and fundraising and politicking will begin in earnest when the legislative session ends in three months. The blaming and shaming is well underway, and lawmakers still have to come up with a reasonable list of preventions that will keep blackouts like February’s from happening again.

That two-step is an old one, designed to keep the blame, and voters’ ire, focused on appointees and hired executives and off of the people in the executive and legislative branches who are supposed to oversee them. That list starts with the governor and includes the legislators who cooked up the current regulatory operation and rules that failed so miserably just a few weeks ago.

The other step? To win credit, at the same time, from voters for the politicians who come in and clean up the mess left by their predecessors — and in some cases, those politicians themselves.

And they’ll have to figure out how to pay for it — whether that is, as Abbott has proposed, an expense the state’s taxpayers should shoulder, or as others have suggested, a requirement for private companies to assume, and to pass along to their rate-paying customers.

We’re supposed to get more reliable electrical power out of all this, and we should, too. Either as taxpayers or as ratepayers, we’re going to get the bill.

Houston Chronicle:

The 194 deaths identified by the Chronicle so far include at least 100 cases of hypothermia that killed people in their homes or while exposed to the elements, at least 16 carbon monoxide poisonings of residents who used dangerous methods for heat and at least 22 Texans who died when medical devices failed without power or who were unable to seek live-saving care because of the weather.

Sixteen deaths were from other causes, such as fires or vehicle wrecks, while the remaining 40 were attributed by authorities to the storm without listing a specific cause.

“This is almost double the death toll from Hurricane Harvey,” said State Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. “There was no live footage of flooded homes, or roofs being blown off, or tidal surges, but this was more deadly and devastating than anything we’ve experienced in modern state history.”

The toll is almost certain to grow in coming weeks as death investigators in the state’s most populous counties clear a backlog in cases from the cold snap. The Travis County medical examiner alone is investigating more than 80 deaths between Feb. 13 and Feb. 20.

2 Responses to “GOP Senator: Texas Blackout Deaths just the Cost of Doing Business”

  1. neilrieck Says:

    What is it with these fake Christians thinking that their wealth is more important than their neighbor’s health? Doesn’t this violate one of the ten commandments?

  2. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    Weatherization wasn’t required, but reports about it were.

    Reports, as it turns out, didn’t keep Texans warm during almost a week of freezing weather last month.

    Cut to scene of shivering family throwing another 2011 “lessons learned” report into the fireplace.

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