Tag Archives: Texas winter storm

Well, Ted … your take on Dems’ bolting the state?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Republican politicians are having a high time criticizing their Democratic legislative colleagues for leaving Texas intent on preventing a Republican-led effort to suppress Texas voters’ access to polling booths.

But … where is U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz? Is the Cruz Missile going to weigh in? Oh, wait! He has his own bail-on-Texas cross the bear.

This is the nitwit who sought to high-tail it to Cancun, Mexico in February while the rest of us were freezing — many of us to death — in that monster winter storm. He came back home when the fecal matter hit the fan, then tried to explain his way out of the jam into which he had inserted himself.

So, go ahead, Sen. Ted Cruz. Tell us all why you think Texas Democrats are shirking their duty.

Summer might be as nasty as winter

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Goodness, I wasn’t ready to hear about this predicament from the folks who manage our electric grid.

Our summer might be as miserable as the winter we endured in North Texas and throughout the rest of the state. That is, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — our electrical grid managers — might suffer more power outages on the scale of what occurred when the snow and ice ravaged us.

Hmm. How “reliable” is that? Not very.

The Texas Tribune reports: “This summer, I am as worried right now [about the grid] as I was coming into this winter,” said Curt Morgan, CEO of Vistra Corp., an Irving-based power company. “Sounds like I’m the boy that cries wolf, but I’m not. I’ve seen this stuff repeat itself. We can have the same event happen if we don’t fix this.”

More from the Tribune: As state lawmakers continue debating how to improve the grid after February’s storm nearly caused its collapse, on Tuesday Texans were asked to conserve electricity because the supply of power could barely keep up with demand. A significant chunk of the grid’s power plants were offline due to maintenance this week, some a result of damage from the winter storm.

ERCOT messed up royally in February with the way it shut down power supply while temperatures hovered at zero or below. Millions of us lost power and water. It’s not as though Texas is a total stranger to this kind of winter savagery. Still, power plants froze; they weren’t properly winterized. Natural gas lines were rendered inoperable.

Texas could face ERCOT power crisis, blackouts during extreme summer heat | The Texas Tribune

The Texas Legislature is meeting at this moment seeking to strengthen the grid. Its regular session ends on May 31. Legislators will need to return in special session if they don’t have a grid repair strategy on the books. They had better prepare for a long and tiring summer of work on our behalf if they can’t get it done when they gavel the regular session adjourned.

It looks as though whatever the Legislature comes with must include a plan to deal with our long, hot summer.

ERCOT’s warning about potential power outages brought about expressions of anger across the state, the Tribune reported: The warning triggered a torrent of outrage from residents and political leaders across the state who questioned why the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages the grid, allowed it to come so close to emergency conditions on a relatively mild spring day. “I appreciate the increased effort toward transparency, but wow this is nervewracking to see in April,” state Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, tweeted Tuesday.

C’mon, ERCOT. None of us wants to see a repeat while we are sweltering of what happened when we were freezing.

Local government responds

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

It is time to offer a word of thanks and gratitude for the folks who push and pull the levers at Princeton (Texas) City Hall.

My wife and I received our most recent water bill from the city. It showed a significant decline from the previous months. I looked at the bill closely and couldn’t find a readily identifiable reason for the decline.

So … I called the utility billing office at City Hall this morning. I asked a nice lady named Glenda, “Why is my water bill down so significantly from the previous month?” She responded, “The city gave everyone in Princeton a $30 credit on their water bill.”

She didn’t need to explain. The city water system went down for a couple of days during that terrible snow/ice storm that pummeled North Texas for the first half of February. The water treatment plant was powered by the electrical grid that damn near collapsed.

Fortunately, the city got the plant running after two days. The pressure took time to build and the city issued a boil-water advisory, which stayed in effect for three or four more days after service was restored.

“So, this credit was a sort of courtesy that the city extended to us. Is that right?” I asked. Glenda said yes.

Princeton is still a pretty small town, but one that is turning rapidly into a much larger town. Its census is likely to triple from the 2010 count of 6,807 residents when the Census Bureau releases the 2020 count soon. Its water is administered by the North Texas Municipal Water District.

I just feel the overwhelming need to call attention to the “courtesy” that the city and the NTMWD extended to us here. We endured a short-lived, but still miserable, period of time during that winter storm.

I am one red-blooded Texas taxpayer who is grateful that local government officials demonstrated some old-fashioned common decency in helping us recover from it.

Legislature feels the heat from the storm

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

What do you suppose is on the minds of the 181 men and women meeting in the State Capitol for the next few weeks? I think I know.

One of those things has to do with electricity, and whether Texas can avoid the problems it encountered when a monstrous winter storm blew in over the state in the middle of February. Millions of Texans lost their electricity, the ability to heat their homes. What’s more, the water went out in millions of other homes and businesses.

Legislators convened their session in early January and Gov. Greg Abbott tasked them during the storm to get busy looking for solutions to the crisis, which he deemed “unacceptable.”

I have set out trying to learn what Northeast Texas legislators are thinking about how to solve the problem. One possible – albeit preliminary – idea comes from freshman state Sen. Drew Springer, who has filed a Senate bill requiring that all members of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas actually live in the state where ERCOT manages the electrical grid.

Springer, a Republican from Muenster, moved to the state Senate from the state House of Representatives after winning a special election in Senate District 30 to replace former state Sen. Pat Fallon, who was elected to the U.S. House.

Seven members of the ERCOT board have quit; six of them live outside the state. Springer wants to invoke a residency requirement, a notion endorsed enthusiastically by state Rep. Scott Sanford, a Republican from McKinney.

At issue are ways to prevent catastrophic failure, which ERCOT said could have happened, that the state electrical grid was literally minutes away from complete collapse.

Solutions will cost money. They might involve investment of huge sums of money to winterize the power generating system. Sanford is open to dipping into the state’s Rainy Day Fund. “Whatever we decide,” Sanford said, “Texans are going to pay, either through taxes or utility costs.” The Rainy Day Fund, though, could be available to help defray some of that cost. “It didn’t rain, but we had an emergency on a large scale,” Sanford said.

State Rep. Bryan Slaton, a Royse City Republican, said he isn’t terribly concerned about the price tag associated with the repair of the grid, declaring that the state simply has to get the job done.

Slaton, serving in his first legislative session, said he lost power at his Royse City home “for just a little while,” but added that the apartment where he lives during the session with his wife and children lost power and water for several days. “I wasn’t in Austin when the power went out,” Slaton said, adding that “it took me six hours to drive from Austin to home,” noting that it usually takes a lot less time.

Slaton said he is willing to work “as long as it takes” to find a solution to the electrical grid problems.

He said the failures were across the board and all the energy sources need attention. As for whether “green energy” was a major culprit, as suggested by Gov. Greg Abbott, Slaton said “green energy has proven to be unreliable.” He said wind and solar plants froze up, as did natural gas stations. Slaton believes nuclear energy, which provides even less power to the grid than solar or wind energy, is “the most reliable source” that Texans can use.

“A lot of things went wrong with the grid,” Slaton said. He said that in 2019, state Sen. Bob Hall of Van Zandt County and state Rep. Tony Tinderholt – both Republicans – commissioned a study to look at ways to “harden the grid.” Slaton said he is unclear on the status of the report they submitted but suggested it might provide a good starting point for the 2021 Legislature to consider.

He also said that he has filed a bill to require that the Public Utility Commission of Texas become an elected rather than an appointed body. “That way, when things go wrong, we can hold the PUC board accountable at the ballot box,” Slaton said.

Sanford, who is executive pastor (which he said is akin to being business manager) of Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, is serving in his fifth legislative session after winning election in 2012. He said, “The first thing we have to do is understand what happened and examine the policies that contributed to the crisis.” He said the state hasn’t yet “reached that point” of determining which policies to change.

Indeed, Sanford experienced some personal misery at his home in McKinney, which he said suffered from a burst water pipe. So, it is safe to presume that the lawmaker also has some skin in this legislative game of looking for solutions to the state’s electrical grid.

Sanford did say that ERCOT and the PUC need to develop greater ability to “send up red flags” and then communicate to Texans in advance of these weather events how to deal with them. “The warning system needs to be transformed,” Sanford said.

Slaton and Sanford seem to disagree – if only a little a bit – on whether Gov. Abbott was correct to blame the Green New Deal for the failure of the electrical system, although Sanford is reluctant to get into a partisan battle. “The last thing we need to do is get into a Democrat vs. Republican deal,” Sanford said, imploring the Legislature to “put Texans first.” Sanford did say that he prefers “reliable” energy over “renewable” energy, which he suggested has proven so far to be an unreliable source for Texans.

Sanford said he is “intrigued” by the idea that Slaton has pitched, making the PUC an elected body, and he “absolutely” believes the state should require ERCOT board members to live in Texas.

Slaton said he is willing to work “for as long as it takes” to find solutions to the disaster that the state came within minutes of experiencing.

It seems a safe bet to presume that Rep. Slaton’s legislative colleagues are willing as well to stay on the job until they fix the problem. Millions of Texas residents will demand it.

Rest assured I will be among them.

BLOGGER’S NOTE: A version of this blog was published initially on KETR-FM’s website.

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.

Oops on the photo ops

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Ted Cruz seemingly cannot even pull off a “photo op” without drawing criticism.

The Texas Republican junior U.S. senator has earned all of it … but, really?

He jetted off to Cancun, Mexico while Texas shivered in the midst of a hideous and crippling winter storm. He came home early after news of it hit the fan. He apologized for messing up, but only after seeming to blame his daughters for talking him into going to Mexico just to get away for a few days.

Then came the picture of Cruz loading bottled water; and he cut some barbecue to serve for firefighters in Houston. That’s all fine, except that the pictures looked like “photo ops.” A Cruz staffer snapped the pictures and then he likely was gone.

Ted Cruz under fire for ‘photo ops’ in Houston following controversial Mexico trip (msn.com)

Hey, he’s not the only politician who stages these do-gooder events for the camera. Donald Trump thought he’d toss rolls of paper towels in Puerto Rico to those who needed the paper goods; he did that for the camera, too … but it looked stupid. Remember the time 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis slipped a helmet over his head and then he rode around in the tank? It didn’t work well at all.

So, now we have Mr. Sanctimonious — Ted Cruz — trying to make up for his major mistake by pretending to load bottled water and slice some BBQ for the real heroes of the Texas winter storm.

Not a good look, Sen. Cruz. His photo ops turned into photo oops.

Biden expands disaster list

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Someone must have gotten to President Biden, or perhaps to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The Biden administration today added 31 Texas counties to the president’s list of 77 counties that fell within the major disaster declaration he issued over the weekend.

Gov. Greg Abbott had called the initial disaster declaration a good start. FEMA, though, added the counties that now are on track to receive greater federal assistance to help them recover from the monstrous winter storm that blanketed and ravaged much of the state.

We’re basking  today in 70-degree sunshine in North Texas. A week ago we were freezing our backsides off with temps plunging to near zero degrees. Our electrical grid failed; our water supply went kaput. Millions of Texans — my wife and I included — were suffering from the cold.

Counties included in this latest approval are Anderson, Austin, Bosque, Bowie, Burnet, Cherokee, Colorado, Erath, Fannin, Freestone, Gonzales, Grayson, Gregg, Harrison, Hill, Houston, Hunt, Jackson, Jim Wells, Jones, Limestone, Lubbock, Medina, Milam, Navarro, Rusk, Taylor, Tom Green, Val Verde, Washington, Wood.

I am particularly heartened to see Hunt and Fannin counties added to the disaster-listed jurisdictions. My joy, though, pales compared to what officials there and in the other counties are feeling.

The list of 77 counties now has grown to 108 out of a total of 254 Texas counties. As Gov. Abbott said: It’s a start.

Put on your ‘Comforter in Chief’ cape, Mr. POTUS

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President Biden is coming to Texas to perform one of the unwritten tasks of the job he inherited just a bit more than a month ago.

He is coming as the nation’s Comforter in Chief. I hope he is up to the task that lays before him.

I spent a good deal of emotional capital over the past four years blasting to smithereens Biden’s immediate predecessor’s unwillingness to lend comfort to Americans in trouble. I will spare you any more tirades on that score.

Biden is coming here to survey the damage done by the nasty winter storm that paralyzed so much of the state. You know the drill by now: Power went out, darkening millions of homes; the water supply failed, too, forcing millions of Americans to boil their water before consuming it. Indeed, many Texas communities to this very day still do not have water or their residents are still forced to boil it.

What can the president do in a single visit to a ravaged area? Not much. I am acutely aware that such visits serve mainly to provide the head of state an up-close look at the damage and to enable him to speak to local officials and to their constituents about the path forward.

President Biden is known as a touchy-feely kind of guy. There likely won’t be much hugging or up-close chit-chat between the president and those who are still suffering. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to keep our distance, even from a president whose presence among us likely will become part of the man’s presidential legacy.

I fully expect President Biden — despite the restrictions he will face — will demonstrate fluency in the language he must use to tell Texans the things they need to get some level of comfort.

It goes with the job.

Biden declares 77 Texas counties to be in ‘major disaster’ mode

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wanted all 254 of Texas’s counties to qualify for “major disaster” relief from the U.S. government.

President Biden granted that status to 77 of them, or a just a bit less than one-third of what Abbott had sought in the wake of the terrible Texas snow and ice storm.

I saw the list of all the counties and, as a Collin County resident, I was heartened to see my county on the list of declared places, along with Dallas, Denton and Tarrant counties. Others in our immediate area received the designation. So did other major counties, such as Bexar, Travis, Harris and their immediate surrounding jurisdictions.

One of the regions where I once lived, the Golden Triangle, also got the disaster declaration, but the Texas Panhandle did not get that designation.

I was struck, though, by the absence of Hunt County from the list of counties to receive federal aid under the designation. Commerce’s water supply system went kaput. It came back, but the city has been on a boil-water advisory for several days; the advisory is expected to last a while longer.

What does it take, therefore, for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to declare a county a “major disaster” when that county is suffering through, um, a major disaster?

I cannot really know what goes into the decision-making processes within FEMA. I just am an observer of how various jurisdictions within my particular orbit are dealing with the mess that the storm has left behind. From my perch in Collin County, it looks for all the world like our neighbors to our east — in Hunt County — are going through precisely the same tragedy that Mother Nature brought to my neighbors and my family members.

Abbott called the disaster declaration from President Biden a “good first step” in helping our state recover. Perhaps a “good next step” would be to expand the list of counties that receive this disaster declaration.

Time to look ahead … post-Winter Storm of 2021

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Is it too early to start crafting after-action reports on what the hell just happened to us in Texas?

Not at all!

We got hit with a storm that might make some folks in, say, Fairbanks, Duluth or Buffalo chuckle. They’re use to the kind of weather we’ve endured. It gets even worse in those places, but dang, man … we aren’t accustomed to this. And it showed in our utility companies’ response to it.

I have been prowling this planet for 71 years and I do not recall ever going without power or water for the length of time we did in Princeton, Texas. I grew up in Portland, Ore., where it rains a good bit and occasionally gets pounded with snow. My career took my family and me eventually to Amarillo, Texas, where it gets mighty cold and where it does snow — often a lot at one time.

We were unprepared for what happened. I hear now that the outfit that manages 90 percent of Texas’s utilities — ERCOT — has said we were “minutes away” from a total collapse of the electrical grid during the worst of the storm.

Total collapse? What the hell does that mean?

Utility companies shut down production capacity ostensibly to save energy while the Arctic blast blew in over Texas. Where I come from, they call it a “clusterf***,” which it was.

We heard reports of production stations lacking proper winterization. Natural gas pumps froze. Wind turbines, too, were rendered useless in the cold.

There needs to be a top-to-bottom — and back to the top — review of what happened here. There also needs to be action plans developed to prevent it from recurring when the next monstrous storm decides to descend on Texas, which is full of good folks who seem to believe they live in an indestructible state.

Mother Nature has told us otherwise. She issued a dire warning that we are vulnerable to nature’s wrath, which came our way in a form that is foreign to millions of us. Hurricanes blow in from the Gulf of Mexico. We can get pretty damn hot in the summer. The rain at times fails to dampen our land. Yes, we are a sturdy bunch here in Texas, as the Dust Bowl proved in the 1930s, even as it wiped out West Texas families.

Always time to thank first responders | High Plains Blogger

It’s time, though, to examine carefully what happened to our electrical infrastructure and make sure we do not repeat what could have been an even more tragic event.