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Chance to avert fatal blackout in Texas missed, experts say


AUSTIN, Texas – Elsie Ford lost power at her cold home for nearly a week during the devastating February blackout in Texas. By the time the 68-year-old widower was found on the floor, his hands had turned purple from frostbite. He died the next day.

“The whole thing was a train wreck from day one, too much,” said his son, Larry Ford.

Three months later, Texas’ first pass is almost out of time: only days left for state lawmakers to make good on the promised overhaul after one of the biggest power outages in American history, when 4 million More customers had lost the heat Artic blast blasted the state’s electricity grid.

But there are concerns that rapidly growing Texas may lack stabilizing power and averting future blackouts. The concessions to oil and gas interests have narrowed the scope of the weathering mandate. The threat of heavy fines will be left to Texas regulators who have long been criticized as cohabiting with industry operators. There is nothing on the table that would add more power capacity to one of America’s fastest growing states.

There remains also an endangered but sustained effort to pursue higher costs on renewable energy generators, although frozen wind turbines and iced solar panels were not, as some GOP lawmakers have falsely claimed, the primary driver of the blackout.

“It’s hard to see how it provides the full coverage of winter that we need,” said Daniel Cohan, professor of environmental engineering at Rice University.

Any change in Texas’ troubled power grid should reach Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk by Sunday.

Energy experts who have criticized Texas’ past flaws in protecting the grid say that despite the shortcomings, there has been progress in legislation that is likely to reach Abbott. They point to power plants that will winter, new inspections and better coordination if they run into trouble. But there remains a concern that it does not go very far after not keeping up with the illustrious energy capital of America, Roshni.

Republicans, who claim to have kept regulation low in Texas, have defended the response.

“When we started we said we were going to fix it. And I think we’ve come a long way toward doing that,” said Republican State Rep. Chris Paddy, who introduced the bills in the Texas House Has operated.

Outages have slowed down since the firing and the resignation of the officers involved. Attention to blackouts in the state Capitol has also waned as GOP lawmakers raced to pass hardcore conservative laws on abortion, guns and voting restrictions in the final weeks.

Texas’s proposal to replace oversight of Texas’ largest electric grid – which powers 90% of the state and is cut off from the rest of the US – and imposes heavy fines on power plants that do not let the devices winter, There is widespread support. Abbott, whose hand-picked energy regulators stepped under pressure, has demanded that power producers have a cold.

But a mandate to protect every natural gas wellhead or pipeline from freezing in Texas is unlikely. The most comprehensive bill, Senate Bill 3, would instead leave regulators to decide which are required and then be fined for failing to protect them.

Oil and gas executives have fought against excessive degrading of all natural gas infrastructure. The Dallas Fed put the cost of winter equipment at between $ 20,000 to $ 50,000 per well.

During the February storm, heat demand rose as temperatures dropped. Roughly a quarter of Texas’ natural gas supply was shut down. According to the state’s grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the failures of fossil fuel plants, including natural gas facilities, contributed twice as much as solar and wind generators.

A fine would be $ 5,000 per day, which Democrats and critics have argued may be cheaper for operators to pay than winter equipment. “This leaves a significant amount of latitude, and historically, regulators have erred in favor of being too loose when given wide latitude,” Cohan said.

Efforts have been made to limit weathering of natural gas sources as some Republicans are trying to push higher costs on the renewable energy industry in Texas, which leads the nation in wind power generation and a fifth of the state’s electricity Provides.

Republican state Rep. Kelly Hancock, who has pushed for the need for renewable operators to backup resources, alleged that he was using the blackout to “fool” renewable energy and hurt defensively. Texas lawmakers have generally supported the wind industry, a group Hancock says includes itself

“I don’t really care where power comes from. I’m neutral when it comes to generation,” Hancock said. “But I am not neutral in making sure that it is stable.”

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Associated Press writer Jamie Stengel in Dallas contributed to this report.

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