Texas 2021 Winter Storm Event
April 8, 2021
We at Lloyd Gosselink wish all of our clients, colleagues, and fellow Texans well as our state continues to move through response and recovery from the February 2021 winter storm. We especially thank our employees who have continued to deal with utility service issues and property damage while serving our clients. We will be keeping up with activities at the federal, state, and local levels, and here is a summary of where things stand.
Legislative Update: The Senate approved SB 2142 on March 15, 2021, which directs the PUC to adjust the price of wholesale power and ancillary services for a period of time in February 2021 during the winter storm event. The bill has been received in the House and referred to the House State Affairs Committee. In addition, the Senate approved SB 3 on March 29, 2021, which identifies a significant list of measures to support the reliability of the electric grid and prepare for energy emergencies including provisions on an emergency alert system, weatherization, designation of critical customers and critical loads, variable rate plans, and the creation of a State Energy Plan, among other items. The Senate also passed SB 2154 on March 25, 2021, changing the number and qualifications of PUC Commissioners. Most of the House priority bills previously announced by Speaker Phelan were approved by the House on March 31, 2021, including HB 10, HB, 11, HB 12, HB 13, HB 16, and HB 17. HB 14 remains in committee.
March 12, 2021
Regulatory and Legislative Follow Up: Speaker of the House Dade Phelan announced priority bills on legislative reforms to be filed in the House. On the Senate side, 28 senators signed a letter to the Public Utility Commission requesting it retroactively reduce the market price for power during the storm event and posed tough questions to the PUC Commissioner during this week’s Senate Jurisprudence Committee hearing.
March 4, 2021
Federal Disaster Declaration and Assistance: The Biden administration has approved additional counties for federal disaster aid so that as of early March, all 254 Texas counties are eligible for public assistance to local governments (emergency protective measures only) and 126 counties are eligible for individual assistance for the Stafford Act. Governor Abbott and the Texas Division of Emergency Management continue to work on the extension of individual assistance to additional Texas counties.
Regulatory and Legislative Follow Up: The TCEQ held a work session on March 3, 2021, to discuss the agency’s response to the event and discuss additional actions the agency may need to take. The video can be viewed here.
February 22, 2021
State Disaster Declaration and TCEQ Rules Suspensions: On February 12, Governor Abbott issued a state disaster declaration for all 254 counties due to the threat posed by the oncoming winter storm.
As allowed by the state disaster declaration, Governor Abbott approved the suspension of certain Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) rules for regulated entities dealing with the storm on February 13-19, 2021.
Federal Disaster Declaration and Assistance: On February 20, 2021, the Biden administration approved Texas’ request for a federal major disaster declaration and federal individual assistance in 77 counties and public assistance to local governments (emergency protective measures only) in all 254 counties under the Stafford Act. On February 22, 2021, the Federal Emergency Management Agency approved additional Texas counties for individual assistance.
Regulatory and Legislative Follow Up: State agencies and legislative committees with relevant jurisdiction have been and will be taking more action in the coming days. The Public Utility Commission has opened a separate docket number (51812) for winter storm event response activities. The TCEQ has set up a winter storm event webpage to serve as a resource for regulated entities. The Railroad Commission has issued orders and notices related to natural gas operations. The following legislative committees will be holding hearings this week. Committee hearings can be viewed for the House here and for the Senate here.
Joint Hearing House State Affairs and Energy Resources Committees
9:00 AM, Thursday, February 25, 2021
Hearing to consider the factors that led to statewide electrical blackouts during the recent unprecedented weather event; the response by industry, suppliers, and grid operators; and changes necessary to avoid future power interruptions.
Senate Business & Commerce
9:00 AM, Thursday, February 25, 2021
Hearing to examine extreme weather condition preparedness and circumstances that led to the power outages as directed by Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The committee will also review generator preparedness and performance, utility outage practices, natural gas supply, and the reliability of renewable generation, as well as overall ERCOT system resilience.
9:00 AM, Thursday, March 4, 2021
Hearing to examine the legal responsibilities that ERCOT and the PUC owe to the people of Texas. The committee will review the legal framework for governance and oversight of these two entities, their relationship to one another under the law, potential legal liabilities, and the legal limits on increases to consumer electricity rates during an emergency. The committee will also examine price gouging under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act and receive an update from the judiciary on how the judicial system is managing its operations during the ongoing statewide emergency.
Again we wish our clients, colleagues, and all fellow Texans fair skies and warm temperatures in the days ahead!