Texas Senate passes bill mandating changes to state energy market in wake of winter storm

The Texas Senate passed a bill March 29 aimed at overhauling the state's energy market. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Texas Senate passed a bill March 29 aimed at overhauling the state's energy market. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Texas Senate passed a bill March 29 aimed at overhauling the state's energy market. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)

A bill that would put in place a litany of changes to the Texas power grid unanimously passed on the Senate floor March 29.

State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, introduced Senate Bill 3 with the intention to fix some of the problems that led to massive, dayslong blackouts and water outages for millions following a winter storm in mid-February. After hearing hours of testimony, Schwertner said in the bill's analysis, the most repeatedly mentioned issues included "a lack of oversight, a breakdown of communication, and major failures in coordination within and between Texas' regulatory agencies."

The bill includes requirements for power generators in the state to weatherize their generation, transmission and natural gas facilities or face fines of up to $1 million. It also would mandate utility providers to defer collection of bills during an extreme weather emergency—a provision aimed at relieving the sky-high energy bills some customers saw following the winter storm.

In a tweet after the bill passed in the Texas Senate, Schwertner said the legislation will address the issues behind the "catastrophic effects" on the state's utility market. A survey by the University of Houston's Hobby School of Public Affairs found a majority of state residents felt the effects of that catastrophe.

According to the survey, 69% of state residents who rely on the grid managed by the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas lost electrical power during the storm. Nearly half of all Texans—49%—lost access to running water, and 18% decided to leave their homes when they lost power and heat.

The survey also found more than 75% of respondents supported requiring weatherization from natural gas and energy providers and more rigorous oversight of utility companies.
By Jack Flagler
Jack is the editor of Community Impact Newspaper's Central Austin and Southwest Austin editions. He began his career as a sports reporter in Massachusetts and North Carolina before moving to Austin in 2018. He grew up in Maine and graduated from Boston University, but prefers tacos al pastor to lobster rolls. You can get in touch at jflagler@communityimpact.com


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