Texans can expect sub-freezing conditions this week due to Winter Storm Landon. The looming winter storm has led to reassurances from the governor, and vocal concerns from Democrats who say major changes have not been made to secure the power grid.
In a Tuesday press conference, Gov. Greg Abbott said that although some localized power outages may occur, the Texas power grid itself is expected to hold.
“ERCOT is using a conservative approach to grid management and forecasts to make sure they are prepared,” Abbott said, explaining multiple state agencies were being activated to respond to the winter storm.
The governor said freezing temperatures that may create hazardous driving conditions could begin as early as Tuesday night. Demand on the grid will be at its highest point on Friday morning.
Ahead of the severe weather on Monday, Democrats on the Texas House Caucus on Climate called on state leaders to improve winterization standards in the face of less predictable and more extreme weather.
“We have to take life-saving action to put real solutions in place: winterization standards and increased accountability for natural gas — not just for generators — and energy efficiency measures in all buildings to reduce demand and keep Texans safe in their homes,” said Environment and Energy Industry Chair Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood) and Vice Chair Ron Reynolds (D-Houston) in a joint statement. “We cannot be content to take it one storm at a time and just hope the power stays on. Our goal must be for the lights to never go out on Texans again.”
The looming freeze comes one year after Winter Storm Uri knocked out the state’s power grid for days, leading to the deaths of hundreds of Texans.
Industry experts have warned many of the same problems that caused the collapse still remain. In November, the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) estimated that another cold snap, even one less severe than Uri, could once again shut down the state’s power grid.
On the anniversary of that grid failure, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke announced Monday he would begin a statewide drive across 20 cities to highlight Abbbott’s role in the crisis.
“Abbott failed to prepare us for a completely preventable disaster, and then failed to make changes that would protect us from the next extreme weather event,” O’Rourke said on Tuesday. “To add insult to injury, this governor is forcing ratepayers across the state to clean up his mess.”
In November, the Republican-led Texas Railroad Commission approved a $3.4 billion bond deal that will be reflected in the gas bills of Texans for the next three decades.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org