Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan Looks To Prevent Another Winter Storm Tragedy

Dade Phelan says among the bills the full House will consider would require power plants and other electric companies to winterize their facilities.

Video Transcript

- On Tuesday, the full House in Texas will consider the first pieces of legislation to address last month's widespread power outages. The state says 111 people, as of today, lost their lives during the storms that left millions of people in the dark, in the cold, and without water. Our political reporter Jack Fink spoke with House Speaker Dade Phelan today about the plans to prevent this from happening again.

DADE PHELAN: We've got a very robust plan, over 10 to 12 bills I think, that we will have off the House floor in the coming weeks, hopefully before Easter.

JACK FINK: Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan says one of the bills the full House will consider Tuesday would require power plants and other electric companies to winterize their facilities. Other legislation would ban variable rate electric plans for residents, and require more oversight of the state's electric grid operator, ERCOT. Phelan says the House will also debate bills on how to pay for winterization and other improvements.

DADE PHELAN: And our plan right now the House will take $2 billion from rainy day fund and create a revolving loan program.

JACK FINK: He says the goal is to protect ratepayers from facing those costs directly.

DADE PHELAN: But it's an opportunity for co-ops, you know, and municipalities especially, to generate power. Who can't go out and get loans in the private market for, you know, let's say modernization or for weatherization. The state can help back those loans. They'll pay us back. And over time, we'll be able to lend that money for decades to improve our infrastructure.

JACK FINK: The Speaker says private firms may also be eligible for the loans. In addition, he says the state may offer grants.

DADE PHELAN: I mean, I don't see us giving grants to anyone in the private sector. There could be opportunities for grants for smaller municipalities and co-ops that may have difficulty repaying it. That's something we need to work out.

JACK FINK: Besides electric utilities, Phelan says the program would also apply to expanding broadband access in the state. It's an even greater need now as distance learning and telemedicine became more of a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaker Phelan says the House and Senate will hash out any differences they have in their bills, because in the end, he says, lawmakers want to work for all Texans. Jack Fink, CBS11 News.