State Watch

House subcommittee probes Texas power grid operator

The House Oversight Subcommittee on Environment is launching an investigation into Texas's power grid operator after the severe winter conditions caused power outages and deaths across the state in February.

Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, sent a letter to Bill Magness, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), on Wednesday requesting documents and information regarding their preparation for the storm.

"The failures of ERCOT and the State of Texas were costly. Dozens of Texans have died and the number of confirmed deaths continues to grow," Khanna wrote. "The total economic losses in Texas could reach $50 billion when factoring in property and infrastructure damage, lost wages, business and crop losses, and medical costs."

Khanna told Magness that the power outages disproportionately impacted low-income communities and communities of color, and highlighted that extreme weather events are part of climate change.

The California Democrat requested documents regarding ERCOT's preparedness for extreme weather events, communications regarding decisions on implementing rolling blackouts and the disruption of electric supply in the storm by March 17.

"The risk of increased extreme winter weather events in the United States underscores the need for adequate preparation," Khanna wrote. "ERCOT and the State of Texas are well-aware of the weather predictions, yet you have failed to prepare adequately for them."

In a statement to The Hill, ERCOT said "we received the letter and will be providing responses." 

ERCOT has come under fire in the fallout of the winter storm for its handling of the state's power grid after over 4 million people were left without power as a result of harsh weather conditions including below freezing temperatures, ice and snow.

Dozens of people in Texas and the surrounding southern states died as a result of the storm including from car accidents on icy roads, hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisonings from makeshift heaters.  

Magness previously said that the grid operator was "seconds and minutes" away from a total grid failure, and decided to go with controlled blackouts to manage high demand for electricity.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) asked the state legislature to investigate ERCOT last month, deeming the power outages "unacceptable."

Updated 4:29 p.m.

Outbrain