Tag Archives: PUC of Texas

Storm makes me nervous

I cannot possibly be the only Texas resident who is suffering the nervous jerks as we await the arrival of this winter storm.

We went through a damn rough period just about a year ago in these parts when the electrical power grid failed. We lost our water supply for a time, too. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the managers of our grid, came under intense criticism over the power failure; so did the Public Utility Commission of Texas. ERCOT’s management team quit or was fired, along with the entire PUC.

Gov. Greg Abbott vowed to fix the grid. I am not sure it’s been fixed. Neither is anyone else. Abbott said a few weeks ago that “I guarantee the lights will stay on” this winter. Just this week, he walked back that bold assertion; now he said there is no guarantee possible.

So, yes, I am nervous about the storm that is sweeping into Texas this week. The weather forecasters tell us it won’t be as nasty and as severe as it was this past winter.

I do hope they’re right.


Then there were none

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What the hell?

The last remaining member of the Public Utility Commission of Texas has resigned … at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott.

Holy cow, man! Arthur D’Andrea was the last man standing at the PUC. His two colleagues had quit already, including the chairman DeAnn Walker. Why the exodus?

Well, the PUC overseas the management of the electrical grid, which is run by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. ERCOT, though, made some boneheaded decisions during the February snow and ice storm that paralyzed most of the state. Millions of Texans lost power. More of them lost water.

The PUC along with ERCOT became the whipping kids.

According to the Texas Tribune: “Tonight, I asked for and accepted the resignation of PUC Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea,” the governor said in a statement, adding that he plans to name “a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency.”

Abbott added: “Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

I’m glad spring is about to arrive. There is no time to dawdle. We need to “chart a new and fresh course” for the PUC.

It’s time to get busy. As in, um, right now!

Elect the PUC of Texas? Let’s talk about that one

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A young Texas state legislator with whom I recently became acquainted has pitched a fascinating notion that needs some discussion. Heck, it might even need to become law.

Freshman state Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican, says we need to elect the Public Utility Commission of Texas, making its members “accountable” to the voters when they make mistakes.

Hmm. Do you think the PUC made a blunder or three as the state struggled against Mother Nature’s winter wrath in February?

To be sure, this proposal carries plenty of risk along with the reward that Slaton seems to think it also carries.

The PUC currently is appointed by the governor. It comprises three members. The chairwoman of the panel, DeAnn Walker, recently resigned under duress in the wake of the monster winter storm that shut down electricity for millions of Texans.

Slaton has this notion that the PUC should be elected, just like the 15-member Texas State Board of Education and the three member Texas Railroad Commission are elected. The SBOE sets curriculum requirements for our public schools, while the RRC — perhaps one of the more misnamed agencies anywhere — regulates oil and natural gas issues for the state.

An elected PUC might be a good idea, but I would offer this caveat: Its members should be non-partisan. We already elect the SBOE and the RRC on partisan ballots. Their decisions, sadly, are too often driven by party platforms and concerns about whether their decisions will anger those in their electoral “base.”

Would an elected PUC be subject to the same pressure as the Ed Board and the Railroad Commission if it is elected on party ballots? It’s something to ponder.

The PUC ‘s mission is to regulate the rates and transmission of utility power to the state. Somewhere in the mission statement, the PUC declares that its aim is to “protect customers, foster competition, and promote high quality infrastructure.” Is that a mission that requires its members to belong to one political party or the other? I think not.

Texans have not been well-served by their utility regulators. There needs to be some serious overhaul from top to bottom of the way they do their jobs. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas has taken heavy fire for the role it played. The ERCOT board recently fired its CEO in the wake of the winter blast.

Do we need to put PUC policy making decisions in the hands of politicians who campaign for votes? Maybe … or maybe not.

Let’s have that discussion.