Texas Speaker unveils priority storm legislation

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The American Flag and Texas Flag fly outside the Texas Capitol in Austin on Dec. 16, 2020. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN, Texas (Nexstar) – As Texans continue to recover from the winter storm, House Speaker Dade Phelan has unveiled his priority storm-related legislation.

“I am proud the Texas House is leading the charge in protecting consumers, fortifying our grid, and creating clear lines of communication and authority during extreme weather events,” The Speaker said in a statement Monday. “We must take accountability, close critical gaps in our system, and prevent these breakdowns from ever happening again.”

The priority legislation includes ERCOT reform, protecting various facilities from extreme weather, notifying Texans during emergencies, defending consumers, and more.

The bills follow several days of hearings in which House members and the Texas Senate grilled the PUC, ERCOT and more, searching for answers on what went wrong in February and why.

Several members of the ERCOT board have since resigned and the CEO has been terminated, prior reports indicate. Meanwhile, the Lt. Governor is calling on the PUC and ERCOT to correct its pricing errors that extended long after the outages stopped.

Here is a list of priority bills from the Speaker of the House:

HB 10 – Reforming Energy Reliability Council of Texas Leadership

HB 10 restructures the ERCOT board, replacing the unaffiliated members with members appointed by the Governor, Lt. Governor, and Speaker of the House. HB 10 also requires all board members to reside in the state of Texas and creates an additional ERCOT board member slot to represent consumer interests.

HB 11 – Protecting Consumers and Hardening Facilities for Extreme Weather

HB 11 requires electric transmission and generation facilities in this state to be weatherized against the spectrum of extreme weather Texas may face. Utilities will be required to reconnect service as soon as possible and prevent slower reconnections for low-income areas, rural Texas, and small communities.

HB 12 – Alerting Texans During Emergencies

HB 12 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. The alerts will also provide targeted information on extended power outages to the state’s regions most affected. This system builds off the model used in Amber, Silver, and Blue Alert systems.

HB 13 – Improving Coordination During Disasters

HB 13 establishes a council composed of ERCOT, Public Utility Commission of Texas, Railroad Commission, and TDEM leaders to coordinate during a disaster. The committee will identify challenges with fuel supplies, repairs, energy operations and prevent service interruptions from the wellhead to the consumer.

HB 14 – Weatherizing Natural Gas Infrastructure

HB 14 requires the Railroad Commission to adopt rules requiring gas pipeline operators to implement measures that ensure service quality and reliability during an extreme weather emergency, which covers winter and heat wave conditions.

HB 16 – Defending Ratepayers

HB 16 bans variable rate products like Griddy for residential customers. These types of speculative plans resulted exorbitant bills. This bill will provide consumer protection to residential customers while still allowing the competitive market to flourish.

HB 17 – Protecting Homeowner Rights

HB 17 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 will be delivered to the end user.

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April 22 2021 09:00 am