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Texas corruption is dooming the state to another power grid tragedy

The Republican-led Legislature had a chance to build back better, but corporate pressure has resulted in a squandered opportunity.

In February, a devastating winter storm and freezing temperatures led to utter catastrophe in Texas. The state’s power grid nearly collapsed, more than 200 people died and millions of customers lived without power for days. But since then, the state lawmakers in charge still haven’t effectively protected the state from a repeat of the crisis.

A new report from NBC News and The Texas Tribune outlined how corporate pressure has effectively weakened lawmakers’ proposals for regulatory measures meant to ensure Texas’ power grid is fit to withstand extreme weather events. 

The main takeaway is that some Texas lawmakers created a giant loophole in a bill they passed this year that was meant to require gas companies to weatherize their systems. Specifically, legislators passed a measure including weatherization requirements for power companies, but they left it to state regulatory agencies — namely, the Texas Railroad Commission and the Public Utility Commission — to impose the mandate. Those agencies have allowed power companies to opt out of the weatherization requirements.

MSNBC / Getty Images

As a result of that loophole, Texas has made only incremental changes to avoid a repeat of a disaster in which many died and much of the state was brought to a standstill.

It’s crucial to note that the blackouts in February had a disproportionate impact on Black, Latino and low-income Texans, with many people in Black and Latino communities going days without access to electricity, gas or water.

In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, claimed “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid” after the blackouts months earlier.

The NBC News and Texas Tribune report on Texas’ vulnerable power grid undermines his claim that the grid has been adequately prepared for future weather events. It also shows that Abbott and the Republican-led Legislature in Texas are willing to endanger people most susceptible to harm from these events — Black and Latino people — in order to satisfy corporate interests.

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