Roy Gilbert

Texas Lawmakers Passed Changes To Prevent More Blackouts. Experts Say It’s Not Enough

Texas state lawmakers had just started a legislative session when deadly blackouts gripped the state in February. The timing was fortunate. In Texas, legislators typically meet only once every two years. The fact that they were already in Austin meant they could act quickly, and many vowed to shore up the state’s electric grid and create safeguards against future power outages.

This week lawmakers did approve a sweeping package of measures to address specific problems that threaten electric reliability — some of them despite opposition from the oil and gas industry. But many electric grid specialists, policy analysts, and state politicians themselves say they’ve failed to do enough to prevent another blackout disaster.

After a decade of warnings, a weak mandate to “winterize”

Ever since another major freeze and blackout ten years ago, experts have said Texas needed to “winterize” or “weatherize” not only its power plants, but its oil and gas infrastructure as well. The reason is that cold weather can freeze wellheads and other components in the natural gas supply chain, stopping gas from getting to power plants.

Despite February’s deadly disaster, it was not clear that would happen this time either. Industry lobbyists, and regulators often seen as cozy with them , rejected winterization.

Christi Craddick, the elected Republican Chair of the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency, the Railroad Commission of Texas, even denied the large role oil and gas failures played in the blackout.

“My industry resolved the problem and didn’t really create it,” she told lawmakers soon […]