Fractured communication led Texas to shut down power to energy producers during winter storms

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Hundreds of natural gas producers weren’t designated as critical infrastructure before extreme winter storms hit Texas last week, causing some to lose power for days when the state throttled electricity supply to prevent the grid from collapsing.

Christi Craddock, chair of the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s oil and gas industry, testified before a joint emergency hearing in the Texas House on Friday that she did not speak to the agency that manages Texas’ electric grid before the arrival of the storms.

Like millions of Texans, some natural gas producers were knocked offline when Texas needed them most.

“I never spoke to ERCOT,” Craddick said. “I wouldn’t know who to call at ERCOT, to be honest.”

Craddick did speak with the Public Utility Commission, the board that oversees ERCOT, before and after the storm.

Abbott has been critical of ERCOT in the days since the storm for “slamming on the brakes” to preserve the electric grid and failing to communicate the severity of the storm to energy providers and the public. But Abbott has not chastised the PUC, which is made of members he appointed.

Over two days of emergency hearings in the Texas House and Senate, state lawmakers have expressed concern about the fractured lines of communication between ERCOT, PUC and the Railroad Commission.

“I don’t understand who should have known about these forms that needed to be filled out for prioritization for ensuring that essential plants did not get turned off,” said state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat.

Some lawmakers have suggested the creation of an agency or commission to facilitate communication between Texas’ various energy regulators.

Following an extreme winter storm in 2011, a bill to combine the PUC and Railroad Commission failed to pass the state legislature.

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