MISSION, Texas – State Rep. Sergio Muñoz says the regulators and grid operators who allowed six days of electrical outages across the state this past week must be held accountable.
The Mission Democrat welcomed Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan’s decision to hold a joint hearing of the Committee on State Affairs and the Committee on Energy Resources.
The hearing, on Feb. 25, will review the factors that led to megawatts of electric generation being dropped off the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) system. The subsequent blackout left millions of Texans without power during a week of below freezing temperatures.
“The ongoing weather and power failures have brought to light tremendous shortcomings in the state that must be addressed and improved,” Muñoz said.
“The supposed rotating power outages imposed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and the subsequent failure of our electrical grid should have been preventable. In a state with such rich natural resources, more should have been done to ensure that Texans possess electricity to keep their families warm in such extreme winter weather conditions.”
Muñoz, pictured above, said the scheduled joint hearing of the two House panels “is just the beginning of the reform.”
He said: “Those responsible must be held accountable for the outages that have left so many in dire conditions.”
Muñoz is also not happy that the Public Utility Commission has allowed ERCOT to raise its rates. He said consumers will see significant price hikes in their utility bills as a result.
“The notion that consumers should be punished for the state’s electrical failings is illogical,” Muñoz said. “Millions have been without power for several days and counting. At a time when temperatures are below freezing, Texans should not be forced to pay for power outages that were beyond their control.”
The South Texas border region has strong representation on the two House committees. State Reps. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, Richard Raymond Peña of Laredo, and Eddie Lucio, III, of San Benito are members of the Committee on State Affairs. State Reps. Abel Herrero of Robstown, Tracy King of Uvalde, and Oscar Longoria of La Joya are members of the Committee on Energy Resources.
“I look forward to asking questions and finding solutions so that Texas can better plan for these events in the future,” said Longoria.
Other South Texas lawmakers are also demanding answers.
“I’m as frustrated and worried as you are about this unacceptable infrastructure catastrophe,” state Rep. R.D. ‘Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen told constituents. “The Electrical Reliance Commission of Texas must explain to lawmakers why we have this electricity shortage crisis throughout Texas. It’s not just unfortunate and unprecedented, it’s unacceptable.”
State Rep. Armando Martinez of Weslaco praised the AEP Power linemen for working tirelessly to get electricity restored. He said Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to make the power outage issue an emergency item for the Legislature will allow lawmakers to immediately start passing related legislation.
“ERCOT needs systemic changes and Texans deserve long-term solutions and unwavering reliability,” Martinez said. “We cannot allow a private company to manage our electricity.”
State Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City spoke about the issue during a meeting at Starr County Memorial Hospital last Tuesday. Click here to listen to his commentary.
Speaker Phelan issued this statement about the joint hearing:
“The extreme winter weather Texans experienced this week caused the lights to go off across the Lone Star State. I’m asking these two vital committees to convene a joint hearing on February 25th for the express purpose of helping Texans understand what went wrong and how we can prevent these conditions from happening again.”
Phelan added: “We must cut through the finger-pointing and hear directly from stakeholders about the factors that contributed to generation staying down at a time when families needed it most, what our state can do to correct these issues, and what steps regulators and grid oerqpators are taking to safeguard our electric grid.”
Hinojosa: Tough Questions
Meanwhile, in the Texas Senate, state Sen. Joan Huffman, chair of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence, announced an upcoming hearing to examine the legal responsibilities that ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) owe to the people of Texas.
The PUC oversees the activities of ERCOT.
The hearing of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence will take place March 4. Huffman said the committee will review the legal framework for governance and oversight of these two entities, their relationship to one another under the law, potential legal liabilities, and the legal limits on increases to consumer electricity rates during an emergency.
She said the committee will also examine price gouging under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act and receive an update from the judiciary on how the judicial system is managing its operations during the ongoing statewide emergency.
State Sen. Juan Hinojosa of McAllen is vice chair of the Senate Committee on Jurisprudence.
“What is occurring across our state is unacceptable,” Hinojosa said. “I look forward to joining Chairwoman Huffman and my colleagues on the Senate Jurisprudence Committee in asking tough questions to ERCOT leadership, charged with overseeing the reliability and security of the energy grid, and the PUC.”
Hinojosa noted that Gov. Abbott has made these issues an emergency item for the Legislature to consider.
“We will have hearings to address all ERCOT issues that should have prevented this crisis,” Hinojosa said.
“Texas is the 9th largest economy in the world and a winter storm should not have to completely shut down our economy and expose our Texas families to this health risk and suffering.”
Editor’s Note: On Friday, Sen. Hinojosa penned an op-ed about the blackouts. Click here to read it.
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