Politics

‘Dust Off My Bill’: Turner Tells Lawmakers To Reconsider ERCOT Legislation He Filed In 2011

In 2011, Turner filed a bill requiring the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to have adequate reserve power in order to prevent blackout conditions. That bill did not get a hearing.

Mayor Sylvester Turner addresses reporters on Feb. 19, 2021.

Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday told state lawmakers to consider legislation he filed as a state representative in 2011 that he says would have prevented power outages like the ones experienced this week.

In 2011, Turner filed a bill requiring the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to have adequate reserve power in order to prevent blackout conditions.

That bill did not get a hearing.

Now, he said, it’s time to reconsider the idea.

“You need to dust off my bill, and you need to refile it,” Turner said at a press conference Friday. “Because it’s not about just holding hearings. It is about recognizing that in the state of Texas, ERCOT is a closed system. And that’s the way leadership for a number of years have wanted it to be.”

Turner said the system needs to be winterized because it's currently designed only for summer heat.

Gov. Greg Abbott has already put new emergency items on the agenda for this legislative session, tasking lawmakers with reforming ERCOT and weatherizing the state’s power grid. Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan has also asked the legislature to hold a committee hearing on ERCOT’s response to the outages.

ERCOT manages about 550 energy units across Texas, a grid that covers 90% of the state. That 90% does not connect with the rest of the country, meaning that when the storm stressed the grid and brought down generators, Texas could not easily mitigate power shortages with surplus supply from the country’s eastern or western grids.

People in Houston and most of Texas went without power as frigid winter weather bombarded the state. What were initially planned to be rolling blackouts instead became sustained outages, with some Texans going losing electricity for days on end.

CenterPoint reports more than 99% of their system has been restored in Houston, with the rest expected to be repaired by Friday night.

Many conservatives have blamed green energy for the failure of the grid, falsely claiming that an overeliance on failed wind turbines were the root of the supply problems. In reality, wind overproduced, according to ERCOT, producing more than than the grid manager expected despite generator loss.

MORE | ‘Unfair and Untrue’ — False Claims Spread About Wind Energy’s Role In The Texas Grid Failure

On Twitter, Turner accused those critics of playing politics with the weather disaster.

At Friday’s press conference, Turner said he had been contacted by the Biden administration since the beginning of this week’s storm, which he called “encouraging.”

But, he added, Gov. Greg Abbott has yet to reach out to the mayor of Texas’ largest city.

"I have not talked to the governor at any time during this crisis," Turner said. "I have not talked to the governor, but we're pushing forward."

Abbott’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Jen Rice

Reporter

Jen Rice is the City Hall reporter at Houston Public Media, where she covers topics like Houston City Council and housing. Jen was born and raised in Houston's 100-year floodplain. She graduated from Barnard College at Columbia University and has a master's degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs...

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Paul DeBenedetto

Paul DeBenedetto

Senior Producer

Paul DeBenedetto is Houston Public Media's senior web producer, writing and editing stories for HoustonPublicMedia.org. Before joining the station, Paul worked as a web producer for the Houston Chronicle, and his work has appeared online and in print for the Chronicle, the New York Times, DNAinfo New York, and other...

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