With temperatures warming up as the arrival of spring sweeps the state, the Texas House has now approved a series of bills designed to prevent the woes brought about by last month’s winter storm.
The six bills were part of a seven-bill package prioritized by Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, who announced the initiative earlier this month in response to the wide-sweeping electrical blackouts affecting millions of Texans across the state as temperatures plunged to below freezing.
One such bill, House Bill 10 by State Rep. Chris Paddie (R–Marshall), would restructure the board of the Electrical Reliability Council of Texas, which oversees Texas’ electrical grid, to institute staggered terms and members appointed directly by the governor, lieutenant governor, and the speaker of the house. All board members would also be required to be residents of Texas. The bill passed unanimously.
House Bill 11, also by Paddie, requires electric transmission and generation facilities to be weatherized against extreme weather conditions and also passed unanimously.
Another bill that received unanimous approval from the House was House Bill 12 by State Rep. Richard Raymond (D–Laredo), which creates a statewide disaster alert system to warn Texans of impending disasters and extreme weather, as well as House Bill 13 by Paddie, which establishes the Texas Energy Disaster Reliability Council.
The council will consist of members of ERCOT, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the Railroad Commission, and the Texas Department of Emergency Management to coordinate during a disaster.
Of the six proposals approved in the House on Tuesday, two proposals did not receive unanimous support.
The first was House Bill 16 by State Rep. Ana Hernandez (D–Houston), which would ban “wholesale indexed” electric plans from being sold to consumers. This came as a response to Griddy sending customers exorbitant electric bills, which were tied to the wholesale price of electricity.
The bill passed 111-35, with opponents arguing the restriction amounted to government interference in the market.
Another bill, House Bill 17 by State Rep. Joe Deshotel (D–Port Arthur), would prevent local governments from banning natural gas in new buildings and construction. Thirty-four Democrats voted against the measure.
The final piece of Phelan’s winter storm priorities, House Bill 14 by State Rep. Craig Goldman (R–Fort Worth), would address the winterization of natural gas plants. So far, that bill has not passed out of the Energy Resources Committee.
Meanwhile, the Senate has also gotten to work passing legislation related to last month’s power outages. On Monday, the chamber unanimously passed omnibus Senate Bill 3 by State Sen. Charles Schwertner (R–Georgetown), which addresses winterization and emergency alerts. Senate Bill 2 by State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R–North Richland Hills), which deals with reforming the makeup of the ERCOT board, is still pending in committee.
The House will have to give final approval to the bills on Wednesday before sending the legislation over to the Senate.