Texas Democratic Party
After this week’s bombshell news of the resignation of the only remaining member of the Public Utilities Commission, state legislators continue to question exactly what happened during last month’s winter storm crisis that left at least 57 Texans dead as a result of freezing to death, from carbon monoxide poisoning and fire as they tried to stay warm, or from medical equipment failure due to the power being shut off.
The reports show that one thing is abundantly clear: this deadly event wasn’t a natural disaster – it was a man-made one.
On March 16, Gov. Greg Abbott’s recently appointed PUC chair, Arthur D’Andrea, resigned after Texas Monthly published a 48-minute private call he had with investors who, last month, made hundreds of millions in profits from the unregulated energy market in Texas during the intentional state blackout.
During the call, D’Andrea promised that he would not re-price the astronomical $16 billion error in real-time pricing during the winter storm – an error that left Texans with energy bills of tens of thousands of dollars for just a few days of power. D’Andrea assured the investors on the call that he would use his position as the PUC chair to protect the gargantuan profits they made off the backs of suffering Texans during the blackout.
The revelation that yet another Abbott appointee put profits over people is not a surprise – rather, this is part of Abbott’s pattern of failed leadership, which has caused untold suffering for people across Texas. The full death count as a result of the winter storm isn’t known, but the fact remains that the deaths were due to power being intentionally shut off during below-freezing conditions by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates Texas’ unique electric grid and manages the state’s deregulated market. ERCOT is regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Texas whose board is appointed by Abbott.
The entire ERCOT board, its CEO and all members of the PUC have resigned in the fallout of this disaster, but the buck stops with Abbott whose job it is to efficiently run this state and protect Texans.
Upon investigation, Rep. Colin Allred, D-Dallas, explained that on Feb. 9 – a full week before the storm hit – meteorologists at Vistra Corp. began sounding the alarm to ERCOT, the Texas Railroad Commission and state government officials that the forecasted freezing temperatures would compromise the state’s energy grid, which hadn’t been weatherized to deal with extreme weather.
“By their account, no one seemed to react with the haste and urgency they believed necessary, and they emphasized that ERCOT’s projections of the power supply were far below the demand they were seeing,” Allred later tweeted.
But their warnings were ignored. On Feb. 10, a meteorologist with Vistra Corp. notified Abbott about the potential for the storm to compromise the state’s electrical grid.
Yet once again, Abbott chose to ignore the science. Instead, Abbott received advice from Joe Bastardi, a known climate change denier and fringe meteorologist, at the encouragement of Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and Fox News personality Sean Hannity.
“The level of corruption in the Abbott administration and their complete disregard for human life, not to mention the suffering of fellow Texans, is almost unbelievable. The resignation of Abbott-appointed PUC Chair Arthur D’Andrea reflects a tried-and-true GOP strategy: deny, deny, deny until you get caught – then choose a fall guy to take the blame while allowing others to dodge accountability,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a written statement.
“Abbott has proven to all of us that he is not worthy of holding the highest office in our state. In crisis after crisis, he has failed us. For the families of victims who froze to death last month or who died because of the governor’s refusal to take the COVID-19 pandemic seriously, this is where we draw the line. Texas cannot take another term of this corrupt and deadly administration. We deserve better.”