By State Rep. Tan Parker
Over the past year, the people of our great state have been incredibly tested. From COVID-19 to the recent massive power outage, its been a continuous mitigation of historic events. Throughout this time of tremendous challenge, the people of Texas remain extraordinarily resilient.
Your Texas Legislature has much to accomplish to put forth bold solutions to protect Texas. The work must be done, and I am eager to see Texas thrive on an unparalleled path of prosperity. However, the recent power outages from the record setting winter storm left our state with an enormous black eye and far too many people literally in the dark without access to the necessities of life. We inexcusably lost precious human lives and incurred extensive property damage and financial hardship and emerged with more questions than answers.
Tragically, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It’s unconscionable to think that our very own electric grid was a mere 4 minutes and 37 seconds away from complete failure. A full statewide blackout would have resulted in an epic catastrophe sending shockwaves around the globe and bringing our mighty state to its knees with unimaginable loss of human life and economic destruction. By God’s grace we were spared from having this occur, but the truth remains, Texas failed Texans!
Recovery is paramount for the millions impacted by this storm and federal disaster declarations will provide much needed funding to help. We must also ensure consumers are shielded from the absurd charges on their electric bills and make certain we keep consumers financially whole from these outrageous rate hikes.
As we move to triaging this crisis, state leaders must demand full accountability and identify every area that failed. It is paramount that your legislature take action to make certain this will never happen again. We cannot afford to wait any longer to restore, reinforce, and winterize our power generating sources as well as evaluate the market structure. The basic infrastructure components of electric delivery are not only about physical and economic security but also the trust of the 30 million people who call Texas home.
There is zero excuse for ERCOT and the Public Utility Commission’s poor planning, lack of preparation, terrible decision making and the failure of communications on the severity of the storm by those who knew what was coming. The reality is, there have been questions raised before about vulnerabilities within our electric grid, many that I have personally championed to address over the years.
Starting in 2015, I introduced legislation related to protecting the Texas grid as part of ongoing concerns about potential areas of vulnerability. In 2017, I passed HB 787 in the Texas House related to grid security that would have created the Electric Grid Security Advisory Committee to study all types of grid vulnerabilities, including natural threats, and also develop a strategy to protect and prepare critical infrastructure requiring ERCOT cooperation. After all, any protracted and widespread disruption of the grid would also trigger the failure of every one of the affected areas’ other critical infrastructure.
Regretfully, despite being unanimously passed in the Texas House, HB 787 did not become law, but I am carrying an updated version again this session.
Your Texas Legislature has started the investigative process and resignations of ERCOT board members are merely tiny steps on a very long road ahead. Texas is a powerful state and a place of limitless opportunities, we have the ability to do so much better and owe it to every person to make that happen. Texans deserve answers – not finger pointing and political games. Most of you are very angry, and I am angry too. My fellow lawmakers and I will get to the bottom of this crisis. There are absolutely no excuses for the failures that occurred and as we look to the future, it is paramount that every Texan be protected by a reliable, secure, and safe grid infrastructure.
I am thankful for the tremendous efforts throughout Denton County to help one another during the crisis. Community leaders engaged in limitless collaboration with energy and water providers as well as weather experts as we collectively kept in contact throughout each day of the crisis about the needs within our respective communities and where we could support each other.
There were countless heroic efforts from provider linemen, frontline workers, first responders, long-term care facility caregivers, plumbers and employees from our local grocery stores, gas stations, supply stores, water departments and so many others that never slowed down.
Texans possess an unwavering spirit to help one another which was evident as neighbors helped neighbors, citizens provided rides for strangers, and people gathered blankets and generators for our senior care homes who lost power. And when loved ones were without communications, I was grateful for our local police who knocked doors checking on their safety and well-being.
Our great state is going to recover and we will be stronger than ever, but only if we take decisive action now to build a brighter and more prosperous future. It is an honor to serve as your state representative, and I encourage you to stay in touch by calling 512.463.0688 or email [email protected]. You can also follow me @tparker63 on Facebook/Twitter or @tanparkertexas on Instagram.