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Texas

Five ERCOT Board Members Don't Live In Texas, Two State Lawmakers Are Hoping To Change That

Oncor crews work to restore power to homes in Euless, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)
Oncor crews work to restore power to homes in Euless, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

State Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) and Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Dallas) have called for instituting a residency requirement for the board members running the state’s independent electric grid. Five of those members do not reside in Texas.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is responsible for managing 90% of the electrical load in Texas. An overload of the grid contributed to widespread power outages for over 2 million Texans during the past week’s winter storms.

Alvarado released a letter Thursday urging the Public Utility Commission of Texas to approve only residents of Texas to fill ERCOT board vacancies.

“They have one more vacancy to fill and I’ve asked them to make sure that the person they appoint is a Texan,” Alvarado said.

Board members living out of the state were unaffected by the storm, Alvarado said, and could not fully consider the impact of their decision to shut off power during a winter storm.

Leach is filing a bill that would require ERCOT board members be residents of Texas.

“We just very simply believe that folks that are making such important decisions regarding the lives and livelihoods of Texans and our families should actually be here living in Texas and experiencing what we’re experiencing,” Leach said. “That’s the legislative change that we seek to make this session.”

Leach expects to file the bill in the coming days and welcomes bipartisan support.

“Without question this is going to be a bipartisan bill,” Leach said. “All of our conversations on this emergency, how we got here, how we communicate and how we go forward — can’t be a political issue.”

Alvarado also hopes upcoming discussions regarding Texas energy during the 87th Legislative Session will be bipartisan.

“Whatever we do regarding ERCOT has to be done in a bipartisan way,” Alvarado said. “Not just ERCOT but the Public Utility Commission and everybody that has some oversight over our grid system and power.”

The senator said her office received multiple constituent calls about power outages. Some residents of her district said it was 30 degrees in their home. Going forward, Alvarado wants the state to prevent any future crises like this.

“People are already suffering and under extreme hardship because of the pandemic, and then you layer this on top of it,” Alvarado said. “As a lawmaker, I’m trying to sort through to see how much of this could have been prevented.”

Got a tip? Email Katya Bandouil at kbandouil@KERA.org. You can follow Katya on Twitter @kat372.

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