Congress Has Hearing On Texas Power Outages During Winter Storms

The CEO of the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) said Wednesday that Texas did not adequately prepare its electric grid and natural gas supply before last month's severe winter storms.

Video Transcript

- A federal expert over electric-grid reliability said today that Texas did not winterize its power system as his group repeatedly recommended. Those remarks coming during a congressional hearing into last month's widespread power outages that are now blamed for 57 deaths. Here's political reporter Jack Fink.

MICHAEL BURGESS: And to make the necessary reforms.

JACK FINK: During the three-hour long, virtual congressional hearing, the CEO of the North American Electric Reliability, Corporation, or NERC, testified that after a severe storm in Texas 10 years ago, his agency called for freeze protections for power plants and the natural gas supply. But he said Texas didn't winterize its infrastructure as recommended.

JIMM ROBB: What I understand Texas did was to put in place legislation that required weatherization but not to a specific level, and it was not an aggressively-enforced standard. I think it was spot-checked. Rob couldn't say yet what differences the changes his agency recommended would have made last month, but that he hopes their ongoing investigation into the state's power outages would provide answers. NERC develops and enforces reliability standards for electric grids nationally.

During the hearing, Texas Democrats blamed the state's Republican leaders for failing to prepare the electric grid for extreme winter weather, and Ercot for not communicating the severity of last month's storms. This happened because of the neglect that the Republicans and Austin have shown towards the grid for a very long time now. Ercot's outgoing CEO Bill Magness acknowledged they didn't properly communicate with elected leaders and the public.

BILL MAGNESS: As I look back, those times when we saw how large this would be and began to understand how long it would last, the communications around that, I think we certainly could have done better.

JACK FINK: Another North Texas Congressman Michael Burgess suggested the Texas grid should remain independent from the feds.

MICHAEL BURGESS: Texans can and will solve the problem within its borders. Let me say that again, Texans can and will solve this problem within their borders.

JACK FINK: The Texas legislature is now considering numerous bills aimed at preventing last month's power outages from happening again. The legislative session ends Memorial Day weekend. Jack Fink, CBS 11 News.