Here’s how northwest Houston legislators have responded to widespread winter storm power outages

Widespread power outages affected millions statewide during Winter Storm Uri. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Widespread power outages affected millions statewide during Winter Storm Uri. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)

Widespread power outages affected millions statewide during Winter Storm Uri. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)

Millions of Texans went without power for hours or days last week when severe cold weather hit the state.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the entity that manages statewide electric power flow, has received much of the blame for the widespread outages, and state leaders, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have called for an investigation of the council. The state's power grid is independent of the two larger interconnected systems that serve most of the U.S. and Canada.

Local leaders representing constituents across the northwest Houston region have also spoken out in statements and interviews with Community Impact Newspaper, explaining what they think went wrong throughout Winter Storm Uri and actions they plan to take to prevent similar disasters in the future.

State Rep. Sam Harless, R-Spring

Harless sent a letter to ERCOT and its board of directors Feb. 17 expressing his constituents’ concerns about challenges with the state’s electricity infrastructure system. He said Texans should be able to depend on this entity, but despite warnings of the winter weather event, officials were not adequately prepared.

“Rolling blackouts and power outages that spread throughout Texas’ power grid in both hot and cold weather would also seem to demonstrate the current administration and oversight board possesses insufficient imagination or resources to properly assess and plan for the capacity needs of our critical electrical infrastructure,” the letter said. “It appears the time for a change in that leadership and our ability to prepare is now.”

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston

Bettencourt told Community Impact Newspaper he believes there are many benefits to Texas having its own independent power grid but that state officials should have implemented recommendations made following a similar event in 2011 when severe winter weather led to rotating power outages.

“The whole system has to be weatherized to improve reliability. The problem is in the last five to six years especially, all the emphasis has been on wind and solar and not on base power generation, which means coal, gas and nuclear plants,” he said. “We’re going to have to change that mix and that focus. It’s cool that everybody is into wind and solar, but really it leaves us frigid in the winter.”

State Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston

Rosenthal described the state’s response to Winter Storm Uri as “horrendous,” saying some investment in the infrastructure and planning would have lessened the effects of the storm and improved Texans’ ability to recover from it.

“These steps that we should take, in my opinion, are to improve our preparedness, harden our system, be more robust and also have some reserved capacity—a backup plan,” Rosenthal said. “We’re going to have a number of bills filed along those lines, including suggesting that we connect to the national networks.”

State Rep. Tom Oliverson, R-Cypress

While he has not yet determined whether he would file specific bills in response to the event, Oliverson said identifying and addressing the problem will be high on state leaders’ list of priorities this legislative session, and ERCOT would be under “careful scrutiny.”

“I’m not 100% sure what the best strategy is. I want to hear from the experts, but clearly our grid was unprepared to withstand an extreme cold blast,” he said in a Feb. 19 interview with Community Impact Newspaper.

Other concerns Oliverson mentioned include price gouging by electric providers, the fair processing of insurance claims as residents repair damage and the state’s building standards not taking colder weather into consideration.

State Rep. Mike Schofield, R-Katy

Schofield is encouraging his constituents to tune into upcoming legislative committee hearings where individuals will share factors that contributed to power outages and response.

“Our first priority is to get everyone's power and water back, and ensure that gas stations and groceries stores can be fully stocked and operational to get us back to normal as soon as possible,” he said in a newsletter Feb. 19. “Our next priority is to get to the bottom of the power outages, find out what really happened, and make sure it doesn't happen again.”

State Rep. Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands

Toth plans to file legislation that would prevent ERCOT from making repairs with equipment manufactured by foreign competitors, according to a newsletter released Feb. 22. He said in a recent Facebook post he would like to see new leaders serving on the ERCOT board in addition to increased power generation.

“The excess increase needs to come from natural gas, clean coal or nuclear,” he said.
By Danica Lloyd
Danica joined Community Impact Newspaper as a Cy-Fair reporter in May 2016 after graduating with a journalism degree from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She covers education, local government, business, demographic trends, real estate development and nonprofits.


Jersey Village officials have plans to relocate City Hall from its current location on Lakeview Drive to a planned mixed-use development south of Hwy. 290. However, a collection of residents have petitioned the city to keep the building where it is. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Jersey Village residents petition to stop City Hall relocation

City officials confirmed receiving of the petition and said it was being reviewed by the legal team. If the petition is certified, voters could be asked in November to decide whether City Hall should be kept where it is.

Tacarbon Authentic Mexican Grill is now open. (Courtesy Tacarbon Authentic Mexican Grill)
Tacarbon Authentic Mexican Grill now open in Cypress

The new eatery opened this week on Barker Cypress Road.

As part of President Joe Biden’s plan to reopen schools safely nationwide, the department’s National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option is being expanded beyond the summertime. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
USDA extends free school meals provision through 2021-22 school year

Schools nationwide will be able to serve nutritious meals to all students free of charge regardless of eligibility through June 30, 2022, officials announced.

Desert Industries opened April 15. (Courtesy Desert Industries)
Deseret Industries thrift store now open on FM 1960 in Cy-Fair

The new store opened last week with clothing, home goods and more.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston region in 2017. (Vanessa Holt/Community Impact Newspaper)
How Harris County residents can prepare for hurricane season

After the most active hurricane season on record in 2020, Harris County officials said residents should be prepared for the upcoming season starting June 1.

More than 385,600 vaccine doses have been administered in the Cy-Fair area. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
22% of Cy-Fair residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19

As of April 19, about 385,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been distributed to individuals across the 10 ZIP codes within Cy-Fair ISD’s boundaries, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo speaks at an April 19 press conference at a mass-vaccination site at NRG Park. (Screenshot courtesy Facebook Live).
Harris County accepting walk-ins for vaccine at NRG Park

As demand for vaccines has fallen, officials are looking for ways to make them more accessible.

Cy-Fair ISD's mask mandate is set to end June 7. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
End in sight for Cy-Fair ISD's mask mandate, future of virtual learning still uncertain

Superintendent Mark Henry released a statement about the future of the district's mask mandate and virtual learning option.

More COVID-19 cases were confirmed last week in Cy-Fair ISD. (Courtesy Cy-Fair ISD)
78 COVID-19 cases confirmed in Cy-Fair ISD schools April 12-18

The district saw about a 9% decrease in new cases confirmed over the previous week.

The project will add dual left-turn lanes at Cutten Road, Breton Ridge Street and the Willowbrook Mall entrances as well as lengthen all turning lanes on FM 1960 between Centerfield Drive and Cutten Road to provide additional space for vehicles. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
Construction on Willowbrook-area FM 1960 improvement project delayed for third time

Construction on the project is now expected to begin in December 2021 and will take roughly 28 months to complete.