On Monday, House Speaker Dade Phelan announced seven priority bills in response to the recent winter weather crisis that left millions without power and water. Those bills include:

  • House Bill 10: Reforming Energy Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) Leadership
    • Restructures the ERCOT board by replacing unaffiliated members with members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house
    • Requires all board members to reside in the state of Texas
    • Creates an additional board member position to represent consumer interests

 

  • House Bill 11: Protecting Consumers & Hardening Facilities for Extreme Weather
    • Requires electric transmission and generation facilities to be weatherized against extreme weather conditions
    • Requires utilities to reconnect service as soon as possible 

 

  • House Bill 12: Alerting Texans During Emergencies
    • Creates a statewide disaster alert system administered by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) to alert Texans across the state about impending disasters and extreme weather events
    • Alerts will provide targeted information on extended power outages to affected regions of the state
    • Similar to existing Amber, Silver, and Blue Alert systems

 

  • House Bill 13: Improving Coordination During Disasters (Not yet filed)
    • Establishes a council composed of ERCOT, Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC), Railroad Commission, and TDEM leadership to coordinate during a disaster
    • Council will identify challenges with fuel supplies, repairs, and energy operations and prevent interruptions from the wellhead to the consumer

 

  • House Bill 14: Weatherizing Natural Gas Infrastructure (Not yet filed)
    • Requires Railroad Commission to adopt rules requiring gas pipeline operators to implement measures ensuring service quality and reliability during an extreme weather emergency

 

  • House Bill 16: Defending Ratepayers
    • Bans variable rate products for residential customers to include speculative plans that result in exorbitant bills
    • Provides “consumer protection” to residential customers in a competitive market

 

  • House Bill 17: Protecting Homeowner Rights
    • Prevents any political subdivision or planning authority from adopting or enforcing an ordinance, regulation, code, or policy that would prohibit the connection of residential or commercial buildings to specific infrastructure based on the type or source of energy that is delivered to the end-user

 

A Brief History

The severe winter weather that took place in mid-February prompted both legislative chambers to call for committee hearings the following week to investigate the shortcomings of governmental response to weather emergencies around the state. Those public hearings included invited testimony only from power generators and leadership of both the PUC and ERCOT. 

Shortly after the hearings, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called for the resignation of both the PUC Chairman DeAnn Walker and ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. Later that same day, the PUC chairman resigned; just a few days later, ERCOT’s CEO was terminated.

Gov. Abbott also took the opportunity during the many press conferences convened amid the severe weather to cast blame on ERCOT.

Other Related Legislation & Priorities

Gov. Abbott added ERCOT reform and the winterization of power generators, to include its funding allocation, to his list of emergency items shortly after the storm.

Patrick named “ERCOT Reform” (Senate Bill 2, not yet filed) and “Power Grid Stability” (Senate Bill 3, not yet filed) as two of his 31 legislative priorities shortly after the storm.

Of note, neither Patrick’s nor Phelan’s priorities address ending the subsidization of renewable energy boondoggles in what was supposed to be structured as a competitive energy market. The Legislature has previously killed attempts to reform these practices.

Thus far, it is unclear what the final form of any of the proposed legislation will be.

The bill filing deadline is Friday, March 12. None of the bills have been heard in committee as of yet.