Phelan and Paddie Leading House Inquiry
as ERCOT Outsiders from Regulated Areas
February 22, 2021
Two of the three Republicans who are leading an emergency investigation into the Texas power crash last week will be seeing the crisis through an outside lens as residents of areas that aren't part of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan is based in Beaumont - one of a handful of major Texas cities that weathered the deadly winter storm with minimal inconveniences because they don't depend on the state power grid for electricity. Phelan, who was elected to lead the Legislature's lower chamber six weeks ago, ordered the probe into ERCOT last week when millions of Texans who rely on the state for power were left in the cold for four or five days in some cases.
State Rep. Chris Paddie - an East Texan who also lives in a city outside ERCOT's jurisdiction - will be spearheading the House inquiry as the State Affairs Committee chairman in a partnership with State Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth in his role as the new leader of the Energy Resources Committee.
Paddie, the energy panel chief himself during the regular session two years ago, is a resident of Marshall on the eastern edge of Texas near the Louisiana border. Goldman depends on power from the state's independent grid that covers 90 percent of the Texas population as a creation of the deregulation of the electriicity industry that began here with Senate Bill 7 in 1999.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick cast State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston in the lead role in an ERCOT investigation across the rotunda as the chair of the Jurisprudence Committee that's set a hearing on the power freeze catastrophe on Thursday when the House inquiry is scheduled to get under way as well. Huffman and Patrick are both residents of the Houston area that was devastated by the blackouts and a subsequent water shortage like those other major Texas with no lights also experienced.
Governor Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton have both called for investigations into the Texas disaster - raising the specter that as many as four ERCOT probes could be unfolding simultaneously in the state Capital City.
Phelan and Paddie could provide valuable insight based on their experiences in parts of the state that aren't plugged into the ERCOT and fare substantially better during the freeze as a result. The new speaker's home base is served by Entergy in the Eastern Interconnect grid that keeps power flowing to customers in states across the right half of the country.
Marshall is linked to the Southwest Power Pool grid that also includes the Lubbock and Amarillo areas and rural areas in the Panhandle, the South Plains and a strip of the state along the eastern edge. Lubbock is switching to ERCOT when its contract with Xcel Energy expires as a cost-savings move that had been planned before the freeze.
The Lubbock and Amarillo areas have been in the SPP since 2001 when Democrat Pete Laney co-sponsored a meaure as the Texas House speaker that would exempt them from ERCOT. The bill had strong support from the Republicans in northwest Texas and cleared the Legislature with unanimous support on both sides of the Capitol.
more to come ...