Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Texas Environmental Wrangle

We are all familiar by now with the state legislature's failures to properly address the 2021 winter freeze's calamitous effects -- the grid's near total collapse, the loss of hundreds of lives, the inability to replace the stooges on ERCOT with competent people and not more of the same old suck-ups to Greg Abbott, the trickle-down of the costs of Winter Storm Uri (hey, I like that name) from them to us, and so on.  Today Abbott, with a handful of his favorite grinning baboons looking on, will sign some bills into law and promptly trumpet them as 'reform'.

Try not to be surprised that you're being deceived again.

As time ran out in the legislative session, the Texas House and Senate made last-minute changes to the bills. State lawmakers responded to February’s deadly winter storm with a few key changes to the state’s power grid that would address some issues exposed by the storm -- such as requiring power plants to upgrade for more extreme weather -- but did not make the sweeping structural changes to Texas’ electricity market that some experts have called for in the aftermath of the power crisis.


The House's version of Senate Bill 3 had an amendment to create a grant program for projects that improve the resiliency of water, electric and health care infrastructure, including hospitals, nursing homes, and dialysis centers. But the amendment was taken out during the two chamber's negotiations. [...] Most Texans will have higher charges on their power bills for years to come to cover gas utilities', electric cooperatives' and electric companies' financial losses from the storm and prevent customers from having to pay huge bills in a short time, under plans approved by both the Texas House and Senate.

Lawmakers approved bills that would allow companies to seek billions of dollars in state-approved bonds backed by charges on customers’ bills to stabilize the state’s distressed energy market.


The Senate, which has pushed hard for a financial remedy to the infamous 32-hour period during the week of the storm when regulators kept wholesale power prices at the $9,000 cap after more electric generation came online, passed HB 4492 Sunday night (May 30) about five minutes before the midnight deadline. Multiple senators complained that the House removed provisions to provide direct credits to consumers and left little time to negotiate.

"The Texas Senate made it very clear that we wanted to have some direct relief to ratepayers, and that was stripped out by the House of Representatives," said Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio. "Last night we were told to accept what they had sent us — or else."

Last, this.

After a bipartisan group of lawmakers made changes to Senate Bill 2 behind closed doors, the legislation unveiled late Saturday (May 29) would shrink the number of seats on ERCOT's board of directors from 16 to 11, and the state's top politicians would have strong influence over the board. Both chambers approved the bill Sunday evening (May 30).

A selection committee would appoint eight of the 11 board members. The selection committee would be made up of three people -- one appointed by the governor, one appointed by the lieutenant governor and one by the speaker of the House. The committee would use an "outside consulting firm" to select the eight members.

Nine of the 11 ERCOT board seats under SB 2 would be voting members, handing politicians significant power over the ERCOT board. Already, the governor appoints the board members of the Public Utility Commission, which oversees ERCOT.

Politicians previously have not had such involvement in choosing the ERCOT board, whose members are currently selected in a variety of ways; some are chosen by ERCOT’s own nominating committee while others are appointed by companies and consumers participating in the electricity market, with members representing various power sources.

"I am pretty upset by this massive change," Cyrus Reed, president of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, tweeted early Sunday. "This should be debated in public not snuck in a bill in the dead of night!"

The changes to ERCOT's governance captures the essence of what lawmakers have tried to do in recent weeks: Replace experts on the ERCOT board with political appointees — a change energy experts said would do little to improve the power grid.

Apologies for the Kuffner-oversized excerpt.  It's also worth mentioning that the Lege was unable to keep the penalty on renewables in this bill.  So ... progress.

I prefer the kind of headway made over the course of the past two weeks against Exxon Mobil, Shell, and a few other of the world's largest polluters.

Maybe you knew this -- I did not -- but in their quest to go "green" by selling off their dirtiest assets ... it turns out that those don't actually clean anything up.

Let me note this spot of good news from Austin: Chapter 313's expiration flew under the radar.

And the previously unthinkable gets spoken and written.

I like the sound of that.  It's probably the only way we can overcome the climate denialism.  But we'll need to elect a different president and Congress, of course.

And a new Lege.

Returning to the Speaker, highlighting another of his failures is necessary.

Maybe Phelan will hear about that in the interim.

Along the Coastal Bend, a story I also did not get to was activist Diane Wilson and her compadres and comadres fighting Formosa Plastics and others along Matagorda and Lavaca Bay.

Activists in Port Aransas also took on a water desalination facility in Corpus Christi.  And it's always nice to to have the national spotlight shine on the small towns and the intractable problems they suffer from under the yoke of Big Oil.

Since I'm down at the beach, I better talk about hurricanes.

And a little history.

I'll finish with the latest on fracking and the Permian Basin.

What if Joe Biden -- as part of a green infrastructure jobs program -- hired all of the oilfield and refinery workers who are scared about losing their jobs to cap all of the abandoned oil wells across the country?  Just a thought.  I'm sure I'm not the first one to think it.

Denton and its anti-fracking activists celebrate a five-year anniversary.

Let me close out with this story of rejuvenation in East Texas and the Alabama Coushatta Nation doing their part for the pines.

Did I miss something? Post it in the comments.

1 comment:

Sue said...

You did a much better job on this blog than the state government did on protecting the electrical grid. Making political appointees part of the board of ERCOT is like making sure that the wolf is in charge of the hen house. Until we do something about these greedy do nothing republicans in the state we're doomed to have another crisis and another crisis and another crisis. I hope to be retiring soon and exiting this locale