In the wake of the disastrous winter storm that left millions of Texans without electricity and heat, the finger-pointing has just begun. With temperatures dropping far below freezing for days on end, the Texas electrical grid experienced an unprecedented collapse due to icy conditions, power plant failures, and insufficient weatherization. Governor Greg Abbott, who opposed winterizing energy delivery systems, is likely to be among those facing blame – as well as the Railroad Commission of Texas (RRC).
The RRC is responsible for regulating all aspects of oil and gas production in the state, and over recent years it has received tens of millions in donations from some of its largest industry players. This would be illegal in neighboring Oklahoma – yet it’s perfectly accepted in Texas. Such financially-tied relationships between government agencies and large companies can breed corruption at best – or lead to major disasters such as this one at worst.
Tom “Smitty” Smith is a long-time consumer advocate with Public Citizen Texas who believes that lack of weatherization was a major factor leading to this disaster. While Governor Abbott may mandate winterizing electric utilities going forward – he hasn’t done so with those used by gas companies; leaving them susceptible to future breakdowns according to Smith. Additionally, three out of nine members on the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) board resigned after Abbott requested they do so – further raising questions about accountability when it comes to critical decisions made regarding public safety during extreme weather events.
Governor Abbott’s unwillingness to take responsibility for his role in this disaster only compounds matters further still; especially when juxtaposed with his past statements on taking swift action against local governments for failing to manage their financial resources responsibly. It’s time he does the same now – particularly since several large energy providers have already faced investigations into possible price gouging during this crisis period.
Ultimately, Governor Abbott and The Railroad Commission of Texas must face their respective roles in what will likely go down as one of Texas’ biggest energy crises ever. With hefty political donations being funneled into regulatory agencies meant to protect consumers from corporate exploitation; one conclusion stands out above all else: something must change if we are ever going to prevent another disaster like this from happening again in the future.