Mandatory power plant winterization coming to blame-shifting Texas

13 Investigates looked at how Texas was left so vulnerable, starting with Gov. Greg Abbott who appoints the Public Utility Commission.

Video Transcript

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TED OBERG: Here we are at the end of this incredibly long week. And as we look back at this mountain of a problem, it seems everyone's willing to point their finger. But no one's willing to take responsibility. Governor Abbott appoints the public utility commission. The public utility commission oversees ERCOT but allowed ERCOT to make plant winterisation rules voluntary guidelines. After a storm in 2011, a federal regulatory group suggested in this report that power plants should winterize not just to the average Texas winter but to be able to withstand "unusually severe events."

This week, ERCOT tried to tell us that plan worked.

DAN WOODFIN: In 2018, it was similarly cold, similarly windy. And we had very few generating [INAUDIBLE]. And so it appeared that those best practices and what the generators we're doing in that regard was working.

- Yes, it's still leaking.

TED OBERG: If the voluntary guidelines worked so well, it's news to that national oversight group. Because now, they're making the rules mandatory.

HOWARD GUGEL: This time, it will be different. So we will mandate that winter weather [? preparization ?] has to occur, that the plans are there, and that they have to be implemented.

TED OBERG: The rules currently being drawn up won't go into effect until the end of next year at the earliest. And there are already signs ERCOT and some Texas power plants are trying to fight them, which could make change a little tough.

ED HIRS: It's going to take some leadership and initiative. And we haven't seen that in Austin in decades.

TED OBERG: Starting next week, we turn our attention to Austin, where lawmakers begin hearings designed to reform the electric grid system here. 10 years ago, they tried the same thing. But it failed to pass. Ted Oberg, ABC 13, Eyewitness News.