Paddie sponsors two bills for ERCOT reform and weatherization
(KTRE) - Governor Greg Abbott signed into law two bills aimed to improve the response if Texas finds itself in extreme weather condition like the winter storms from earlier this year. An East Texas State Representative sponsored both pieces of legislation.
“We all remember the horrible storm in February and the number of challenges we recognized coming out of it, failures frankly,” District 9 State House Representative Republican Chris Paddie said. “We very quickly began to act.”
“Power grid reform in Texas is now law,” Governor Greg Abbott said. “A top priority that we had this legislative session was to fix the power grid to prevent any other power grid failure in the future.”
Paddie from Marshall, who chairs the House State Affirars Committee, sponsored the bills.
“We have a couple of products here, and there are other bills that speak to some of the main failures, which were oversight and accountability, communication failures throughout the system and then weatherization issues as well,” Paddie said.
SB 2 seeks reforms ERCOT reducing the number of board members and allows the governor, lieutenant governor and house speaker to appoint a committee and select ERCOT board members.
“We had market participants, who were members of the board, who might in some cases be more concerned about their personal interest more so than ERCOT, the system itself and ultimately the people of Texan,” Paddie said. We wanted to eliminate that conflict, and that these are truly independent members charged with running a system that can be as best as it can possible be.”
”There is now greater accountability in the system than ever before with sweeping reforms of both ERCOT and the Public Utilities Commission and more oversight by the Railroad Commission,” Abbott said.
SB 3 deals with mandatory equipment upgrades at power companies and some natural gas companies to withstand extreme weather and creating an emergency alert system when power outages and inclement weather is imminent. Those upgrades could happen soon but, in this bill, there is no mention of funding for those companies to make changes.
“In a lot of cases what we heard from companies is that these are things they can do themselves,” Paddie said. “And frankly, a lot of my members view this as the cost of doing business, as well. They have an expectation that private companies would make the investments necessary to ensure that they were going to be able to perform. We do recognize there are some your municipally owned utilities and co-op’s and things like that, they have some added challenges more so than some large company. But they have the ability as well through their members to make some additional to make additional investments if they see fit to do that. And the same is true on the oil and gas side as well.
“The Railroad Commission and ERCOT now must inspect these facilities, and failure to weatherize can result in penalties of up to $1 million,” Abbott said.
“Hopefully we’ve addressed some of the structural issues to prevent this from happening again with the weatherization, communication and things of that nature,” Paddie said. “But then also, over the next few years, we did some things financially with the securitization bills to ensure they don’t see those costs passed on in an immediate way that results in really high bills for them. So I think there are a number of things we did that will ultimately benefit the consumer.
SB 3 also mentions not imposing late fees or disconnecting utilities while in an extreme weather event but did not address funding support for those still recovering from the winter storms this year. Paddie said there are federal funds allocated to assist. Both SB 2 and 3 go into effect immediately.
You can watch the video below to hear more from Paddie:
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