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Texas House Files Bill In Response To Winter Storm, But It Doesn't Include A Weatherization Mandate

A map of the ERCOT power grid in Texas.
Graphic by ERCOT
/

On Feb. 18, Gov. Greg Abbott declared a new emergency item for the 87th Legislative Session — mandating the winterization of Texas’ power system. Nearly a month later, the Texas House filed House Bill 14 in response. But it doesn’t mandate winterization.

Speaker Dade Phelan initially announced that HB 14, authored by State Rep. Craig Goldman, R- Fort Worth, would require gas pipeline operators to weatherize their infrastructure to help ensure reliability during an extreme weather event.

But the version introduced three days later would only create a Texas Electricity Supply Chain Mapping Committee — which is tasked with mapping the state’s electricity supply chain and identifying critical infrastructure. The committee would be slated to provide a report of its findings and recommendations no later than Jan. 1, 2022.

Goldman said the committee will “recommend ways to best prepare facilities that provide both gas and electric services for extreme weather events where maintaining service operations is critical.”

This Monday, the House Energy Resources Committee considered the bill in a public hearing.

Michelle Richmond, Texas Competitive Power Advocates (TCPA) executive director, said providing recommendations isn’t enough to fix the problem.

“Electric generators are committed to doing whatever it takes to make sure that we can produce power in a wide spectrum of situations,” she said. "But without a secure and reliable natural gas infrastructure that's taken the commensurate actions including weatherization, it really doesn't matter what the electric system components do.”

Stoic Energy president, Doug Lewin, said because the report is due by January 2022, there may not be enough time to make critical changes before next winter.

“The report would be complete only five weeks before the same time we had this storm this year, which isn’t enough time to implement any of the recommendations in the report,” Lewin said.

He said conducting more research is a good call, but recommendations already exist based on a winter storm in Texas that caused widespread power outages in February 2011.

A report from 2011 identified that “many generators failed to adequately apply and institutionalize knowledge and recommendations from previous severe winter weather events, especially as to winterization of generation and plant auxiliary equipment.”

Lewin said recommendations from that report have not been fully implemented yet in Texas.

“There’s a lot of things we know need to be done and the bill doesn’t have those things in them,” Lewin said.

Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, and Rep. Charlie Geren, R-Fort Worth, brought up an issue of security with requiring a state map of critical infrastructure.

“It would be a security nightmare if there was a centralized repository for where our critical infrastructure is in the state,” Darby said.

HB 14 remains pending in committee. Goldman said his office will continue amending the bill.

Got a tip? Email Katya Bandouil at kbandouil@KERA.org. You can follow Katya on Twitter @kat372.

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