Texas lawmakers begin filing bills to improve electric grid after winter storm chaos

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After weeks of investigative hearings at the state’s Capitol, several Texas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle began filing legislation on Friday, March 5 in response to the failures of the state’s electric grid mid-February.

Additionally, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’ Technical Advisory Committee met Friday to discuss immediate changes the board can make. There was a common theme in that meeting: communication issues.

“What we did notice was kind of a perfect storm of some failure of communications,” Jim Lee with the TAC said during Friday’s meeting.

“We need to kind of come up with a public safety communication strategy,” TAC’s chair Clif Lange added.

That’s exactly what Republican Rep. Brooks Landgraf of Midland-Odessa is trying to fix. He filed a bill aiming to establish the Texas Emergency Alert Management System, which would act like an Amber Alert ahead of expected severe weather or power outages.

“What this legislation envisions is a way for people to get a quick text message just to get a heads up, because I know that a lot of us sure could have used that prior to the outages or when the winter storm was rolling in last month,” Landgrad said Friday.

That could come in handy for any emergency updates as well, once power goes out, and it becomes difficult to search the internet for news.

“Most Texans use their mobile phones as a primary source of getting information, especially critical and timely information,” Landgraf explained.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Beckley’s bill would require more communication between public utilities and their local elected officials.

“What is going on? Why was our power out for 30 hours? Why was it not rolling? You know, we weren’t given any information,” Beckley said. She was frustrated she couldn’t answer any of her constituents’ questions during the storm, because she nor other officials in Denton were getting adequate updates.

But communication is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s what lawmakers can address immediately, as they wait for more data from generators to pour in.

Gov. Greg Abbott said changes to the grid itself, and the makeup of ERCOT, are on the way.

“We are not going to end this legislative session without ensuring that the power never goes down in Texas again,” Abbott said during a press conference in Tyler Tuesday.

Other bills filed Friday related to the winter storm energy crisis include establishing a task force to improve the reliability of the grid and requiring notice about the intentional shutoff of any utility.

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