With Texans literally shivering in place, Greg Abbott is hiding out – ducking interviews, sitting on information, and leaving leadership to others. While Abbott has yet to make a public appearance, Democratic County Judges Lina Hidalgo in Harris and Clay Jenkins in Dallas have been on the frontlines providing what information and guidance they can.
“Public” safety and “public” utilities are the responsibility of “public” officials. In Texas, however, a generation of one-party GOP control, with Greg Abbott as either State AG or Governor, has put utility corporations in control of where and how power is provided and how much we pay for it.
Two decades of Greg Abbott & One-Party GOP control means ERCOT calls the shots
Time and again, Democratic legislators have warned against giving utility providers too much authority, too much money and too little oversight.
- In 2012, then State Representative and now Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner specifically warned in a cover letter to a report that utilities were being given too much leeway without accountability.
- And just 6 years ago, during the 84th Legislative Session, then State Representative and now Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson authored a bill to require state agencies to prepare for severe weather within their budgets. Nearly all State House Republicans voted against it.
Out of State, Out of Mind
It’s no wonder that the state’s power grid administration company, ERCOT, is bungling power management during a crisis in Texas. Five of the voting members of the ERCOT board live out of the state. The Board Chair lives in Michigan and her Vice Chair is in California. Another member is Canada-based, another, a banking executive in Chicago. The rest, save one, are energy executives in Texas’ major cities or Abbott appointees to the Public Utilities Commission, which has jurisdiction over ERCOT.
Don’t let Greg Abbott and Texas GOP paper over their negligence
Expect Republican legislators to quickly call for hearings and meetings to address the bad press and political water they take on as a result of the deadly freeze in Texas. But, their aim will be to only consider matters going forward. They will adamantly oppose any real look back to the cause and culpability.
Real reform will require a hard-nosed, fact-based look back at a generation of free rein given to deep-pocketed utility providers and their relationships to Greg Abbott and other state leaders. Only a truly bipartisan commission with no incentive to protect the status quo will arrive at real answers.