Gov. Greg Abbott, quick to point blame at wind and solar energy and grid operator ERCOT for the February weather disaster, had his own man, to quote the wonderful song from the play Hamilton, “in the room where it happened.”
According to the Houston Chronicle‘s Jay Root, Abbott’s policy adviser was in ERCOT’s control room for about 11 hours during a key part of the crisis. He was there when crucial decisions were made about maintaining the maximum energy price at a record level. The chairman of the Public Utility Commission of Texas was there, too.
We didn’t know this. This is starting to feel like a coverup unfolding before our eyes.
Keeping that maximum cap in place caused busts and bankruptcies for some businesses, but not all.
Kinder Morgan, Inc., an energy company that owns oil and gas pipelines and storage facilities, was expected to earn $550 million in the first quarter, according to a Bloomberg News analysis. Instead, the company reported to investors a few days ago that it raked in $1.4 billion in January, February and March.
During the crisis, the company was able to sell its gas in storage for market-high prices. Other energy companies are poised to report huge profits in the coming weeks. Those billions of dollars went somewhere. Thank you, Texas.
In any other state, a calamity such as we experienced would be examined by an independent panel of experts of the highest caliber. This blue-ribbon investigative commission would call in witnesses, study documents, construct a minute-by-minute account and then attempt to write an unbiased report. Let the kilowatts fall where they may.
Is anyone calling for a true investigation? If so, I missed it.
This decision would be made by state leaders, but we don’t hear calls for a serious probe from Republican-led House and Senate members who appear to be protecting a Republican governor as well as themselves.
The Public Utility Commission was filled with Abbott’s anti-regulatory appointees who, before they all resigned in utter disgrace, held fast to Abbott’s don’t-do-anything-unless-you-have-to leadership philosophy.
Abbott is at the top of this pyramid. He and his appointees’ incompetence have hurt millions of people.
This fits with comments uttered recently by the head of the Minnesota Public Utility Commission.
“The ineptness and disregard for common-sense utility regulation in Texas makes my blood boil and keeps me up at night,” chairwoman Katie Sieben told the Washington Post.
“It is maddening and outrageous and completely inexcusable that Texas’ lack of sound utility regulation is having this impact on the rest of the country,” she added.
I contacted Sieben, but she told me that because of Minnesota’s ongoing investigation into the Texas-caused fiasco, she would not comment further.
“I stand by my comments you read in The Washington Post,” she told The Watchdog.
The impact of our incompetence can be felt, Washington Post reporter Will Englund wrote, “in state after state, from the Gulf Coast to the Rockies, from the Ozarks to the shores of Lake Superior.”
How so? Across the nation, various utility companies are trying to devise ways to recoup their financial losses caused by record-high prices they were forced to pay for energy during the Texas emergency. Some are assessing new add-on fees to customers.
Houston-based CenterPoint, an electric and natural gas utility serving parts of Texas, expects to tack between $300 to $400 on to bills sent to its Minnesota customers, the Post reported. The company is trying to do the same to its customers in Oklahoma and Arkansas, the newspaper found.
Xcel Energy is looking at drawing $250 per user from its Minnesota residential customers.
The travesty reached across the southern border, too. Did you know that 4.7 million Mexicans lost power for part of a day because of what happened here? That’s more than the number of Texans who lost power. The reason was the sudden high cost of natural gas.
When the proud energy capital of the U.S. goes kablooey, others beyond our borders suffer, too. We’re that big.
And we’re not going to investigate this?
There’s so much we don’t know. Until reporter Root’s revelations, we didn’t know that Abbott’s energy adviser Ryland Ramos clocked in to ERCOT’s control center outside Austin. He was there representing the governor and was there when the crucial decision was made to keep the cap on, which crashed the energy market.
We didn’t know that the chairwoman of the Texas PUC, DeAnn Walker was also in the room where it happened. I don’t remember her mentioning that in her public comments before she resigned. Do you?
We didn’t know that top officials from CenterPoint, Oncor and other major companies were in the room where it happened. According to ERCOT visitor logs obtained by The Chronicle through an open records request, these VIP’s logged in around 10 p.m. on Feb. 17 and logged out before 9 a.m. the next morning. Cots were made available.
Ramos returned for a second visit the next day, logs show.
Too many questions go unanswered. Too many secrets are kept.
The governor’s office ignored my request for an explanation. But Abbott spokesman Mark Miner told The Chronicle that neither the governor nor Ramos “were involved in any way” in the decision to keep prices at the maximum.
He said Abbott wanted Ramos keeping an eye on ERCOT because the grid operator was offering “disinformation” during the ordeal.
Ramos was “in the room relaying information in real time,” Miner said. “These individuals were working the phones and scrambling to get the power back on and keep it on.”
It’s obvious nobody in power (no pun meant) wants any of this investigated.
We don’t know what really happened. But maybe sometime the people of Minnesota and other affected states can fill us in.
I know this demand for a proper investigation will be ignored. But this could become a coverup of historic proportions. Abbott and everyone else responsible must be called to account for what went down in the room where it happened.