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Texas power-grid fixes touted

Flaws resolved, says governor; energy experts disagree by PAUL J. WEBER THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | June 10, 2021 at 1:43 a.m.
Flanked by state Rep. Chris Paddie (left) and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott talks about the two energy-related bills that he signed into law Tuesday in Austin. (AP/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas -- Despite experts who say Texas' power grid remains vulnerable, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott declared Tuesday that new reforms "fix all of the flaws" that caused February's deadly winter blackout that left more than 4 million people without power in subfreezing weather.

He was joined by Republicans who defended it as a good deal for consumers, even though they gave no direct financial relief to families who were stuck with high energy bills or lost income as the lights and heat stayed off for days.

Signing into law two overhauls in response to one of the largest power failures in U.S. history, Abbott asserted that he and the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature had delivered after one of the worst crises in his six years as governor. But even members of his own party say there is work still to be done.

More than 4 million people lost power when temperatures plunged into single digits over Valentine Day's weekend, icing power generators and buckling the state's electric grid. State officials say they have confirmed at least 151 deaths blamed on the freeze and resulting power failures, but the real toll is believed to be higher.

"The legislature passed comprehensive reforms to fix all of the flaws that led to the power failure," Abbott said. He went on to add, "Bottom line is that everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas."

Energy experts disagree, saying that although lawmakers made significant changes that include mandates to "weatherize" power plants for extreme temperatures and new processes to avert communication failures, the changes do not go far enough to assure a similar catastrophe won't happen again in one of America's booming states.

Among the criticisms are Texas leaving enforcement and key decisions over which parts of the state's oil and gas industry must now weatherize -- and which don't -- to regulators who have long been accused of being too lax with operators. And last week, five former Texas regulators issued a report that said safeguarding the grid requires going beyond the bills signed by Abbott, including acknowledging the realities of climate change -- a topic GOP lawmakers didn't dwell on.

The changes also provide no direct financial relief to consumers. One proposal that called for giving residents a one-time credit of $350 did not make it into the final bill.

ERCOT President and CEO Brad Jones, stands behind state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, where Abbott signed two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
ERCOT President and CEO Brad Jones, stands behind state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, where Abbott signed two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
With state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, right, looking on, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, signs two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
With state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, right, looking on, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, signs two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
With the help of state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, right, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, displays two energy related bills he signed, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
With the help of state Rep. Chris Paddie, left, and state Sen. Kelly Hancock, right, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, center, displays two energy related bills he signed, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, seated second from left, speaks at a news conference where he signed two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, seated second from left, speaks at a news conference where he signed two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs one of two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs one of two energy related bills, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Abbot signed legislation into law to reform the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and weatherize and improve the reliability of the state's power grid. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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