Senate Grills Power Execs Over Blackouts

The clear, blue skies in Texoma mask a storm that is brewing in Austin. During the February Freeze, dozens of power generation plants in Texas failed. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, required rolling blackouts to help maintain the grid. Now, the Texas State Senate is asking tough questions as to what caused the problem.

Senators from the Business and Commerce Committee and the Natural Resources Committee held a joint meeting Tuesday to investigate the matter. Senators told the company officials that they expected power generators to explain what steps they will take to prevent a repeat of the February 2nd outages.

Senator Craig Estes serves on both committees. He explained the motive of the hearing. "We just want all the facts to be heard and then try to learn from those facts," he said. The meetings lasted most of the day in Austin.

Senators heard from electric company executives who said they were disappointed with how their power plants shut down on the coldest day of the year. Hundreds of thousands of Texans were left without power. David Campbell, the CEO of Luminant, said 11 of the 82 generation units that failed on February 2nd belonged to his company.

Texomans Newschannel 6 spoke with were happy to hear of the inquest. Bobbie Garrett of Electra didn't lose power in the February Freeze, but did last year. "It was about 40 degrees or less in the house… so, I do know what its like and its pretty miserable," she said.

Estes says the biggest problem is deciding what needs to be upgraded."There's a couple of things we're concentrating on. One is whether further weatherization of the different generation units and pipelines is needed," he said. Estes likened it to asking a city government how many snow plows they may need. "It depends, are you in Minnesota or Brownsville, TX," he ask rhetorically.

Testimony from executives like Luminant's Campbell underscored that concern. Campbell said the newest plants had the most failures because they don't have the benefit of experience. He said his company now knows where the plants are vulnerable.

Senators demanded that company heads explain how they are going to prevent future failures. Texomans like Bobbie Garrett are pleased with the tough questions." I would hope they would be looking into that to make sure the power grids are what they should be and if they could be more prepared they would be," she said.

A Federal investigation into the same was announced Monday.

Newschannel 6 worked to get the thoughts of people like Bobbie Garrett. We still want to know what you think. Leave us a comment on our facebook page. We may use your post on-air.

Paul Harrop, Newschannel 6