Texas legislature passes several measures to address Big Freeze, but critic worries they're not enough
HOUSTON - Almost four months after the Big Freeze, Texas lawmakers have wrapped-up their legislative session with measures, they hope, will address some of the deadly problems that left millions in the cold.
The February Winter storm happened while lawmakers were in session, and they responded with a lot of promises, and hearings, to fix what was broken. At least one critic fears the danger of another collapse still remains.
Houston businessman, and former mayoral candidate, Bill King is not impressed by the efforts of the legislature.
"My biggest gripe about what they didn't do, is they didn't get to the bottom of what happened," says King.
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He helped study the weaknesses of responding to hurricanes Ike and Rita, and suggested a similar effort for the deadly Big Freeze, that saw the state's power-grid collapse and leave millions in the cold.
Legislative hearings seemed to offer promise that lawmakers were inspired to find, and fix, the policies allowed the disaster. King thinks that icy-resolve thawed as the weather warmed and the immediacy passed.
"We don't even know what we don't know about this," he says. "For them to go off, and pass this sort of BS, where they say 'The regulators ought to take care of everything. We've solved the problem', and then go home to their constituents; It really gets on my nerves."
With the closing gavel of the legislative session, lawmakers passed a handful of measures aimed at the state's electricity business. Among them:
-A requirement that power-producers 'weatherize' their facilities, without saying how.
-An emergency-alert system will notify consumers of potential outages.
-ERCOT membership will be appointed by lawmakers, rather than the governor.
-Billions of dollars worth of rate-payer backed loans and bonds will be available for electric, power and gas producers, to cover their financial losses.
"We're paying for the negligence of the Texas legislature and the Texas executive branch, for not solving this problem before we had a crisis," says King, "What's particularly discouraging about this is that we're going to be paying that bill with no assurance that we've solved the problem for the future."
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The legislation passed by the house and senate is headed to Governor Abbott's desk, and it's presumed he'll sign it.
Meantime, Bill King says he'll start an online petition asking for an independent commission to do the hard work, he says, politicians failed to do.