Texas Democrats demand answers as millions remain without power, wintry weather lingers

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People carry groceries from a local gas station on February 15, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather to Texas, causing traffic delays and power outages, and storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation. (Photo by Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

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EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Ten Texas Democrats are demanding immediate answers regarding controlled power outages that have left millions of customers without power for long periods. 

In a letter to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and Public Utility Commission of Texas, the congressional delegation expressed “grave concern” over the cause, duration, and distribution of power outages during the historic winter storm across the state.

The lawmakers acknowledged that ERCOT had declared a statewide power generation shortfall emergency, thus directing energy providers in Texas to help reduce the amount of power they use through controlled outages. 

However, the lawmakers say there should be limitations on those outages. 

“We understand that the demand for power continues to exceed supply and the importance of stabilizing the statewide grid, but controlled outages are supposed to be limited to 10 to 15 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood,” the letter said. 

The letter noted that by Tuesday, millions of Texans had been without power and heat for over a day. 

Signing the letter were U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, Henry Cuellar, Lloyd Doggett, Veronica Escobar, Lizzie Fletcher, Sylvia Garcia, Vicente Gonzalez, Al Green, Marc Veasey, and Filemon Vela.

Gonzalez, whose district zigzags from the outskirts of San Antonio to the border city of McAllen called the outages and state’s response “catastrophic.”

“Vulnerable populations — the sick, the elderly, and disabled — and millions more Texans are freezing because of the state’s failure to plan and invest in infrastructure,” he said. 

Some Texas Republicans also vowed to look into the outages. 

Even though he called the winter storm and subsequent outages a once-in-a-century event, Dan Crenshaw, a Republican from the Houston area, tweeted, “I’ll be joining my Texas colleagues in getting to the bottom of what happened,” and “We can do better.”

However, Crenshaw said Texas’ investment in wind and solar energy, isn’t paying off.

“You know (California) deals with this ALL the time Even without rare weather events,” Crenshaw tweeted about outages. “Texas’s biggest mistake was learning too many renewable energy lessons from California.”

According to the Austin American-Statesman, wind power supplied 23 percent of Texas’ power grid in 2020, up from 11 percent in 2015. The newspaper reported that this week’s winter storm was more widespread and with unusually high precipitation, causing many wind turbines to freeze and lock up.

In their letter to Bill Magness, president and CEO of ERCOT, and DeAnn T. Walker, chair of the Public Utility Commission, the Democratic lawmakers said even though the power demand continues to exceed supply, ERCOT is responsible for scheduling power and ensuring a reliable source of energy through the Texas electrical network. 

“Millions of Texans are cold and in the dark during a dangerous winter storm,” Castro tweeted. “I led the Texas delegation expressing our grave concerns that power outages are not distributed fairly.”

The letter included a list of questions to which the lawmakers demanded answers: 

  • How are you enforcing the equitable distribution of “controlled” power outages? 
  • How are energy providers in your network managing these outages? 
  • Why did ERCOT wait until midnight on Sunday (2/14) to announce power outages? 
  • What are you doing to decrease the duration and frequency of outages across Texas? 
  • What is your plan if the statewide grid does not stabilize in the next 24 hours? 

The letter also calls for a response no later than Wednesday. 

The same weather system is blamed for at least 20 deaths nationwide. Texas can expect more freezing rain and snow this week.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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