See 'Everything that needed to be done': Gov. Abbott signs bill to strengthen Texas' electric grid by Jeremy Blackman of The San Antonio Express-News. Excerpts:
"Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday signed sweeping legislation intended to strengthen the Texas electric market in response to this year’s deadly outage crisis.
The measures, including winter preparation at power plants and some natural gas facilities, the creation of a statewide alert system, and a regulatory overhaul, amount to the most significant changes to the market since deregulation two decades ago."
"The new weatherization mandates take effect after this coming winter, and will be enforced with flexible fines that escalate over time. They also leave oversight of the gas system, which fuels most of the grid, to regulators closely aligned with the oil and gas industry."
"State lawmakers have separately approved billions in debt relief to electric companies, municipal co-ops and gas suppliers that were hit hard by the February storm, which killed at least 200 people. Ordinary ratepayers across the state are expected to pay for that bailout through monthly surcharges over the coming decades."
"The bills signed Tuesday call on the Texas Railroad Commission to regularly inspect gas facilities and force those that directly supply power plants to prepare for extreme cold."
"They will decide when and how much to fine gas companies that don’t comply with the new mandates."
"It’s unclear how regulators plan to identify which facilities feed power plants directly, since gas is typically mixed in large pipelines once it leaves the field. Some of it may be shipped to storage facilities, piped out of state or sent offshore in the form of liquid natural gas."
"The legislation signed Tuesday also carried through on an earlier commitment to overhaul the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid and which Abbott and others had blamed for some aspects of the blackouts. Under the new provisions, board members will be required to live in Texas, and most will be direct nominees of the governor, the lieutenant governor and the House speaker."
Rules for weatherization of power plants and some natural gas suppliers
Creates a new statewide emergency alert system
Creates a new energy subcommittee bringing together regulators and industry players from electric generation and natural gas
Requires regulators to consult with the state's climatologist when drafting weatherization rules
Mandates that critical gas facilities be mapped and registered with utility providers so their power stays on during emergencies