Lights may be on, but the suffering isn’t over

HOUSTON – Texas Senate and House hearings are only the beginning of the investigations into our state’s power grid failures during a blistering winter storm.

Committees in both the House and Senate convene Thursday morning to start calling witnesses and as one lawmaker put it, “we know the framework of what happened, now people need to start owning up to individual failures.”

As these questions are being asked in Austin, there are numerous stories of people still suffering the effects of last week’s storm.

“We are totally miserable here with no water and it don’t look like we going to have any water for another, maybe two weeks to a month,” Lola Anderson said.

Ten days after the winter storm blanketed Texas, Anderson still has no water in her Yorkdale neighborhood home in Northwest Houston. Like millions of Texans, Anderson lost power as temperatures dropped, pipes in the ceiling froze and then cracked.

“I was losing it, I was losing it because my grandchildren come over and they had to have water, he has to have water for his formula,” Anderson said.

To stop the home from flooding, water was shut off to the house and finding a plumber to make repairs has been exceedingly difficult.

“They either overbooked or they don’t have the supplies,” Anderson said.

Anderson is using bottled water to provide basic levels of cleanliness but said that is an extra expense she can’t support for much longer.

As lingering problems plague the state, lawmakers are demanding to know the minute details of how our state’s power grid lost nearly half of its power supply at the onset of this winter storm.

“I want a list of generation sources that failed, why they failed, how long did they fail for, what was the solution and what is going to be done about it,” said State Rep. Gene Wu, of District 137.

Hearings in the House and Senate will start the work to get those answers. On Thursday, officials with ERCOT, who manage the flow of power through Texas, and the Public Utilities Commission, which oversees ERCOT, are expected to face a litany of questions. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, (R) District 7, said he also wants to hear from those in the industry, as to why individual power plants weren’t better prepared for the freeze. Especially since the state suffered through similar problems during a 2011 winter storm.

“I want to hear why we didn’t learn the lessons of 2011 and take it seriously to heart,” Bettencourt said. “It still should have been a huge wake-up call. We should have taken action then, what prevented that from happening, why did we not take the action?”