From the newsletter dated February 26, 2021
I hope that this letter finds each of you warmer and in better spirits than when I last sent out an update. Last week’s severe weather and resulting power outages were truly a disaster scenario, and it is my sincere hope that each of you have emerged as unscathed as possible. That said, the Legislature must now begin the process of finding out what truly went wrong for our state’s power grid to have failed on such a massive scale. This may sound simple, but the truth is difficult to find when competing interests are all pointing fingers. While I think we all understand that intermittent outages are an unavoidable consequence of severe weather, there is simply no excuse for millions of people to go without power for days on end.
This week the House held its first of what will be many hearings on the topic. The House State Affairs and Energy Resources Committees convened jointly to hear from officials with various energy companies and interests, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission (PUC). Frankly, I was not overly impressed by the testimony from ERCOT and PUC representatives. There is still a long ways to go as we work to identify and correct the root issues.
From what I have observed, it is clear that all entities dealing with the power grid need to do a better job of clearly communicating with the public and with each other when a severe weather event is in the forecast. We also need more transparency for “critical infrastructure” designations and to make certain that those categories are regularly updated. It is incumbent upon the Legislature to learn and to make real, substantive improvements to beef up the resilience of the electric grid.
For those interested, I’ve included a brief overview of the responsibilities and purpose of ERCOT and the PUC below.
In other news, most committees will meet for the first time next week. I’m excited to kick off our work on the Human Services Committee, where we will have the chance to hear from officials with the Health and Human Services Commission, the Department of Family and Protective Services, and the Behavioral Health Executive Council. This will be an opportunity to dig into the current status of each agency as well as get an update on bill implementation from last session before we begin hearing testimony on new legislation the following week.
May God bless you and your family,
James B. Frank