AUSTIN – On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed sweeping legislation to prevent another weather disaster that crippled the state back in February.
Senate Bills 2 and 3 passed in the House and Senate on Monday and signed into law at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
The winter freeze in February wreaked havoc on the Texas infrastructure and left dozens of people dead. Many blame ERCOT, or the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, for not being prepared for such a massive weather event. Power was shut off to thousands of families during the coldest week of the year. ERCOT said it was due to trying to prevent a larger systemwide failure, and lawmakers said the incident should have been prevented.
Senate Bill 3 would require electricity providers operating on the grid managed by ERCOT to weatherize equipment. The bill would also create a state-wide power outage alert system.
Senate Bill 2 will shrink the number of seats on ERCOT’s board of directors from 16 to 11. It would also make the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the house more involved in selecting those board members.
A $2 billion plan to help our companies pay for the upgrades was part of a House Bill, but was stalled in the Senate. There is nothing in SB-3 to create a fund.
KPRC 2 Investigates first showed Houstonians what plant insulation looked like last month at a power plant in El Paso. The insulation was seen at multiple units manufactured by Coverflex, which is based in southeast Houston.
Founder and CEO Mellanie Askew was taken aback that something was finally done.
“Yes, I’m surprised they passed the bill,” said Askew.
Michael Webber, an Energy Professor at the University of Texas, feels the bills did not cover everything.
“The bills and legislation are a step in the right direction, but they don’t go far enough. They don’t require the natural gas system to winterize to the extent that is required,” said Webber.
The bill requiring plants to be better prepared for extreme cold can be a gamechanger, according to Askew.
“Today’s bill could mean the world to us,” he said.
Askew, who founded Coverflex in 1999 and has shipped insulation globally while also installing it in several countries, questions how proper oversight and accountability will be handled, but remains optimistic.
“If they make them hold them to that, it will mean everything to us,” he said.
Gov. Abbot announced penalties of up to $1 million for companies that ERCOT and the Railroad Commission identify as failing to prepare for a storm.