Texas Governor Greg Abbott pulled no punches in condemning the firm in charge of the state’s power grid, launching a probe after claiming the agency lied about its plans to cope with an ice storm that left millions without heat.
“What happened this week to our fellow Texans is unacceptable and cannot be replicated again,” Abbott said at a Thursday press conference, days after a massive blizzard overwhelmed the Texas power grid and knocked out electricity across the state. The governor stepped up his criticism of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which oversees the flow of electricity for most of the state, calling the agency “opaque” while accusing its senior staff of lying about its preparedness for this week’s whiteout.
“They said five days before the winter storm hit – the ERCOT CEO assured ERCOT, and I quote, ‘we’re ready for the cold temperatures coming our way,’” Abbott said, adding that the CEO also claimed ERCOT had “issued a notice to power plants to ensure that they were winterized properly” and assured the public there would be enough power to meet peak demand for the winter season.
ERCOT failed on each of these measures… Texans deserve answers about why these shortfalls occurred and how they’re going to be corrected, and Texans will get those answers.
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The governor went on to say that he issued an executive order directing the legislature to “investigate what happened at ERCOT” before, during and after the storm, noting the probe would begin sometime next week.
In addition to the inquiry into ERCOT’s handling of the crisis, Abbott said he also asked the state legislature to “mandate the winterization of generators and the power system” to avoid future blackouts and to devote the funding needed to ensure those preparations take place.
“Everyone knows how challenging the past few days have been for our fellow Texans. I want everyone to know that all of us in the state of Texas believe it is completely unacceptable that you had to endure one minute of the challenges that you faced,” the governor continued. “All of us agree on the necessity of action, not just the action taken to restore your power, but the action to ensure you never have to endure anything like this ever again.”
Despite the scathing criticism of ERCOT, Abbott nonetheless said he takes responsibility for the conduct of the agency, which is overseen by a three-member panel directly appointed by the governor’s office, the Public Utility Commission of Texas.
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ERCOT itself has yet to respond to the governor’s allegations, but said in an update on Thursday that it had made “significant progress” in restoring power to Texans – at least 325,000 of whom remain without electricity, according to Abbott. Data compiled by poweroutage.us suggests the number may be as high as 343,000 as of Thursday evening.
The grid manager has come under fire from officials and residents alike, prompting the agency to remove the names of its board members from its website due to a wave of threats sent amid the outages. The backlash was particularly inflamed as reports emerged that at least five of ERCOT’s board members don’t live in Texas – one-third of the 15-member board – one of them residing in Canada.
This week’s blizzard triggered a statewide emergency declaration and severe weather advisories across every county in Texas, a first in state history. At least 12 Texans have died in connection to the storm, the Houston Chronicle reported, as hundreds of thousands of residents were forced to seek shelter and “warming centers” across the state while stranded without power for days on end.
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