Texas House members unveil series of bills in wake of power outage hearings

March 9, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
March 9, 2021

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on March 8 unveiled the first phase of House legislative reforms in the wake of recent hearings in the Texas Legislature that examined rotating outages implemented by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in February after an arctic blast hit the state.

Members of the Texas House have filed or will file the following legislation:

Reforming Electric Reliability Council of Texas Leadership: HB 10 restructures the ERCOT board, replacing the unaffiliated members with members appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House. HB 10 also requires all board members to reside in the state of Texas and creates an additional ERCOT board member slot to represent consumer interests.

Protecting Consumers and Hardening Facilities for Extreme Weather: HB 11 requires electric transmission and generation facilities in the state to be weatherized against the spectrum of extreme weather Texas may face. Utilities will be required to reconnect service as soon as possible and prevent slower reconnections for low-income areas, rural Texas, and small communities, Phelan’s office said.

Alerting Texans During Emergencies: HB 12 creates a statewide disaster alert system administered by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to alert Texans across the state about impending disasters and extreme weather events. The alerts will also provide targeted information on extended power outages to the state’s regions most affected. This system builds off the model used in Amber, Silver, and Blue Alert systems.

Improving Coordination During Disasters: HB 13 establishes a council composed of ERCOT, Public Utility Commission of Texas, Railroad Commission, and TDEM leaders to coordinate during a disaster. The committee will identify challenges with fuel supplies, repairs, energy operations and prevent service interruptions from the wellhead to the consumer.

Weatherizing Natural Gas Infrastructure: HB 14 requires the Railroad Commission to adopt rules requiring gas pipeline operators to implement measures that ensure service quality and reliability during an extreme weather emergency, which covers winter and heat wave conditions.

Defending Ratepayers: HB 16 bans variable rate products for residential customers. These types of speculative plans resulted in exorbitant bills. “This bill will provide consumer protection to residential customers while still allowing the competitive market to flourish,” Phelan’s office said.

Protecting Homeowner Rights: HB 17 prevents any political subdivision or planning authority from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, regulation, code, or policy that would prohibit the connection of residential or commercial buildings to specific infrastructure based on the type or source of energy that will be delivered to the end user.

Texas lawmakers hold series of hearings over recent power outages

Texas lawmakers in early March held a series of hearings tied to ERCOT last month entering emergency conditions and initiating rotating outages in the state in the wake of an arctic blast.

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