Texas lawmakers propose reforms following deadly winter storm

Texas Politics

Texas lawmakers were quick to condemn the state's failures after a deadly winter storm last month. Will they do anything about it?

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Vincent Powell, a resident at the Twenty15 apartment complex in Austin, hasn’t had running water in three weeks.

On Monday, he moved into a hotel.

“I’ve lost a lot of faith, to put it mildly, in my elected leadership at this point,” Powell said. “A lot of finger pointing and not a lot of accountability.”

Texas leaders — Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan — have all promised reform following last month’s deadly winter storm that left millions without power for days.

The Texas Legislature has filed a half dozen bills in response to the storm. Some would require energy producers to winterize equipment and establish reserve emergency power.

Another bill would require board members of the Public Utility Commission to be elected, not appointed by the governor. PUC Chair DeAnn Walker stepped down from her position on Monday, hours after Patrick called on her to resign.

Sen. Drew Springer, a Muenster Republican, filed legislation requiring the chief executive officer and board members of ERCOT, the state’s electric grid manager, to live in Texas.

“­It’s why the Texas Legislature is so great, we all come back home, and we all have to live with the people that we put rules and laws on top of,” Springer said.

But lawmakers have ignored warning signs before. Little changed after a winter storm caused widespread outages in 2011.

Craig Goodman, a political science professor at the University of Houston-Victoria, said the most complicated and needed proposals will face the toughest road and timeline.

“Oversight isn’t sexy,” Goodman said. “I suspect some of the strongest measures will probably face a lot more opposition in the Senate, where Patrick is probably going to want to block most things that are going to impose significant new regulations on energy providers in the Lone Star State.”

Powell just wants to go home to his apartment and hopes Texas leaders will be more proactive before the next storm.

“Every morning, I’m reminded of this event,” he said. “We deserve a little bit better than that.”

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