More and more Democratic candidates are kicking off their campaigns with Winter Storm Uri and Texas’ rickety power grid as the focus of their messaging.
Just in time to back up those arguments, a new analysis by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas estimates that another cold snap — even one less severe than Uri — could once again knock out the state’s power grid.
The February freeze left millions of Texans without power for days, caused between $80 to $130 billion in economic damage, and led to the deaths of at least 200 Texans (one estimate puts the grisly figure to at least 700).
Several months after the fact, the historic blackout is still fresh in the mind of Texan voters. A recent October poll found only 18 percent of voters approve and 60 percent disapprove of how state leaders are handling the reliability of the power grid.
In June, Gov. Greg Abbott signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 into law in an attempt to address the grid failure and mandate the winterization of the state’s power generation and transmission facilities.
“Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas,” Abbott said at the time, a claim that was too good to be true considering experts at the time believed the provisions did not go far enough, and a week later ERCOT would be warning Texans to reduce electricity as temperatures rose around the state.
Compounding the problem for Republicans, three months later it was revealed power companies could simply opt-out of the weatherization requirements thanks to a loophole in the law.
The loophole would allow energy providers to forgo weatherization requirements by paying $150 for an application fee that would remove them from being considered critical infrastructure. It was enough for ERCOT interim CEO Brad Jones to sound off about the “easy out” in an interview with NBC 5.
Democrats have raised the issue on the campaign trail too, including Texas Railroad Commissioner Candidate Luke Warford (whose campaign slogan is “Let’s Keep the Lights On!”) and Beto O’Rourke, who recently visited with Houston victims of the winter storm.
“It’s loopholes like this one that killed 700 Texans in February,” said O’Rourke after the visit. “This corruption and incompetence will continue to take the lives of our fellow Texans until we put public health and safety ahead of the profits of Abbott’s biggest donors.”
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at email@example.com