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Sierra Club says federal report shows Texas didn't fix root causes of February's power outages

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Millions of Texans went without power in February as the state's electrical grid buckled under the strain from the prolonged cold front. - SANFORD NOWLIN
  • Sanford Nowlin
  • Millions of Texans went without power in February as the state's electrical grid buckled under the strain from the prolonged cold front.
A recent federal report identifying weaknesses in Texas' power grid shows that Gov. Greg Abbott and state lawmakers have failed to deal with the root causes of February's blackouts, the Sierra Club said Monday.

In an analysis of the report issued by federal energy regulators, the environmental group said Texas' Republican leadership failed to address two key failures identified by the investigators: frozen power plant equipment and shortages in fracked natural gas.

The study, issued last Thursday by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), also recommended Texas make two dozen improvements including boosting weatherization standards, offering bigger incentives for home energy efficiency improvements and better coordinating with the federal government.

In its statement, the Sierra Club said the Texas Legislature failed to take meaningful action to prevent a future crisis. What's more, the group said FERC issued similar guidance to the state after 2011 winter grid failures, which lawmakers, elected officials and regulators declined to act on.

“What is clear from this report and from a decade of inaction is that Texas regulators need to step up and get serious about the future of Texas energy," said Chrissy Mann, a Sierra Club senior campaign representative. "This future should include a growing amount of reliable clean energy and storage and a foundation of innovative and expansive weatherization, energy efficiency and demand response programs for homes and businesses that will keep Texans safer through uncertain, extreme weather conditions.”

After February's grid failure, which cut power to millions and left as many as 700 dead, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 3 in a bid to shore up the state's power infrastructure. However, critics said the measure doesn't go far enough in enforcement and only requires natural gas providers to undertake minimal weatherization improvements.

“We knew decades ago that freezing temperatures can cause problems with gas production and transport, leaving people without power at the very moment they need it most,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director for the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter, in a statement.

"Federal agencies identified Texas’ unweatherized gas wells as a reason for fuel shortages in 1989, 2003, and 2011, but Texas leaders refused to act. Now, after hundreds of Texans have died, we have a chance to go back to the drawing board and try again — state regulators owe it to the people of Texas to get this one right.” 

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