legislation

What Happened:

  • Demand for electricity and natural gas were very high – because of an unusual prolonged winter storm likely linked to climate change;
  • Technology – mostly natural gas supply and natural gas power plants – failed largely because they were not “winterized” for climate extremes;
  • Transmission and distribution utilities (Oncor, CenterPoint, AEP, CPS Energy, etc.) failed to utilize available technology to roll blackouts from one neighborhood to another;
  • Electricity prices skyrocketed and lack of regulation allowed some customers bills to skyrocket as well; and
  • The state and the market failed to invest in resilience measures like weatherizing buildings, energy efficiency, solar, and battery back-up power for critical services
  • The way the State Legislature deregulated the electricity market created an incentive for companies to keep power off the grid to raise prices when demand exceeds supply

Experts and public officials have pointed out that the failure begins with state officials including Governor Greg Abbott and the state legislature and extends to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Railroad Commission (RRC), whicho regulate our energy generators and gas lines respectively.

The Texas Legislature and the Public Utilities Commission failed to act after an investigation into blackouts caused by a 2011 winter storm–the same storm that disrupted the Super Bowl in the DFW area. Those shutdowns demonstrated the need to better prepare the grid for severe winter weather. However, the Legislature has failed to act despite having had many opportunities to modernize our grid. For instance, House Bill 2571, introduced in 2015 by then-State Representative Eric Johnson would have improved winterization and preparedness but was voted down by all but a handful of Republican legislators. Instead, the state legislature and PUC made winterizing energy infrastructure voluntary and let private energy companies ignore public safety. For decades Texas State leaders removed safeguards that secured our grid, including in July 2020 when the governor-appointed Public Utilities Commission board dissolved its Oversight and Enforcement division which enforces the rules that govern electricity producers.

The Texas Legislature and Railroad Commission (RRC) also failed to ensure our natural gas lines could withstand severe cold weather. Gas power is vulnerable to operation interruptions because it relies on a continuous flow of fuel, and when the flow is cut, as it was in many places this week, it can send gas power plants offline. The RRC has a long history of putting corporate interests over public safety. Our gas pipeline systems are dangerously outdated in many areas, leading to explosions, like those in Dallas in 2011 and 2018 and evacuation notices like in Georgetown in 2019.

The RRC also allows gas producers to flare thousands of tons of natural gas, wasting valuable energy resources and causing widespread pollution in the Permian Basin. Texas wastes as much gas from flaring as many countries use in a year!

Click Here to send your comments today to Texas Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and your Texas State Senators and Representatives about the Texas energy and water disaster and your experiences.

Last week over four million Texans lost power in freezing temperatures and over thirteen million people were put on water boil notices after large portions of the state’s gas, coal, nuclear, and renewable power infrastructure went offline. Sources say at least 58 people died in weather-related deaths.

Unfortunately, the disaster isn’t over. Many Texans are still having to boil water – if they have water in their homes at all. People with limited resources – especially in the midst of the pandemic – are struggling to repair homes damaged by the days of ice and freezing cold. Reports of catastrophic electric bills are coming in from all over the state. Our state’s leaders and power and gas companies did not prepare – and then hiked energy prices on Texas consumers in the middle of the crisis.

The reality is this could certainly happen again unless we hold state officials and agencies accountable to prevent another crisis in the future and provide relief for outrageous bills from this one. This will require a sustained organizing effort. Begin to make your voice heard by clicking here to send your comments to the Texas House of Representatives before they finish a hearing tomorrow, February 25 to start unraveling all the things that went wrong last week.

What did you experience in your community and what concerns do you have following the disaster? Let Texas State Officials know.

If you need additional ideas to include in your comment to state officials, these are some of the major complaints we’re hearing from our family members, neighbors, and friends around the state and some demands you may want to include in your own comments. Speak your mind about what you and yours went through and how you want state officials to address your concerns.

  • Multiple days without the basics: power, heat, or water
  • State and grid operators weren’t prepared, even though they’ve known about the problem since 2011
  • Ratepayers and homeowners made to pay for disaster, some with outrageous energy bills, repair costs, and insurance premiums, while energy companies reap massive profits
  • People with pre-existing medical conditions and those without access to essential resources suffered the most
  • Power companies prioritized profits over public safety and reliability
  • State officials, including the Texas Legislature, Public Utilities Commission, and Texas Railroad Commission, ignored warning signs and refused action for decades
  • Governor and other high-level officials deflected blame to wind power, when 90% of energy losses came from gas, coal, and nuclear
  • Climate change means more extreme weather events like this

Thank you for taking action today.

Only sustained grassroots organizing and public pressure will ensure we recover and prevent crises like this in the future. Please talk with your friends, family, and neighbors about holding state officials accountable and send them a link to this webpage action.

What Happened

  • Demand for electricity and natural gas were very high – because of an unusual prolonged winter storm likely linked to climate change;
  • Technology – mostly natural gas supply and natural gas power plants – failed largely because they were not “winterized” for climate extremes;
  • Transmission and distribution utilities (Oncor, CenterPoint, AEP, CPS Energy, etc.) failed to utilize available technology to roll blackouts from one neighborhood to another;
  • Electricity prices skyrocketed and lack of regulation allowed some customers bills to skyrocket as well; and
  • The state and the market failed to invest in resilience measures like weatherizing buildings, energy efficiency, solar, and battery back-up power for critical services
  • The way the State Legislature deregulated the electricity market created an incentive for companies to keep power off the grid to raise prices when demand exceeds supply

Additional Background Information

Experts and public officials have pointed out that the failure begins with state officials including Governor Greg Abbott and the state legislature and extends to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Railroad Commission (RRC), whicho regulate our energy generators and gas lines respectively.

The Texas Legislature and the Public Utilities Commission failed to act after an investigation into blackouts caused by a 2011 winter storm–the same storm that disrupted the Super Bowl in the DFW area. Those shutdowns demonstrated the need to better prepare the grid for severe winter weather. However, the Legislature has failed to act despite having had many opportunities to modernize our grid. For instance, House Bill 2571, introduced in 2015 by then-State Representative Eric Johnson would have improved winterization and preparedness but was voted down by all but a handful of Republican legislators. Instead, the state legislature and PUC made winterizing energy infrastructure voluntary and let private energy companies ignore public safety. For decades Texas State leaders removed safeguards that secured our grid, including in July 2020 when the governor-appointed Public Utilities Commission board dissolved its Oversight and Enforcement division which enforces the rules that govern electricity producers.

The Texas Legislature and Railroad Commission (RRC) also failed to ensure our natural gas lines could withstand severe cold weather. Gas power is vulnerable to operation interruptions because it relies on a continuous flow of fuel, and when the flow is cut, as it was in many places this week, it can send gas power plants offline. The RRC has a long history of putting corporate interests over public safety. Our gas pipeline systems are dangerously outdated in many areas, leading to explosions, like those in Dallas in 2011 and 2018 and evacuation notices like in Georgetown in 2019.

The RRC also allows gas producers to flare thousands of tons of natural gas, wasting valuable energy resources and causing widespread pollution in the Permian Basin. Texas wastes as much gas from flaring as many countries use in a year!

As many Texans continue to suffer and support those affected by this most recent winter storm, TCE is extending the criteria for its mini grant program.

From now until March 31, 2021 we will be accepting applications from individuals and groups who are helping neighbors recover and prepare for a more rapidly changing climate.

Grants will be in the range of $500 to $2,500.

You do not need to have a legal non-profit status in order to apply.

Grants should fit five basic categories.

For more information visit https://www.texasenvironment.org/fund/texas-grassroots-mini-grants/