Bexar County Judge Wolff calls on Texas' governor to roll back power deregulation after outages

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO / ERCOT
Courtesy Photo / ERCOT
In another sign that blame for Texas' widespread electrical failure falls on more than just the operator of its power grid, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff is urging the governor help reverse the state's deregulation of public utilities.

In a Friday letter to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, Wolff cited a 1999 bill passed by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature that, among other deregulatory moves, did away with rate oversight by independent or elected commissioners.

That measure created the situation in which utilities were allowed to make "just in time" purchases from natural-gas wholesalers, who were selling out of state last week when their fuel was needed most.

"We find ourselves in a situation that puts profits first for utilities and reliability second," wrote Wolff, a Democrat. "It is time to go back to the proven formula of utility regulation that Texas had prior to 1999."

Wolff warned that last weekend's catastrophe won't be the state's last freezing event. Other parts of the country have figured out how to ensure reliability during harsh winters, he added.

In the letter, Wolff said both grid operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas and CPS Energy share some of the blame for the widespread San Antonio outages. Both the city and the state will investigate their potential fault, he added.

"I am sure we will find mistakes, but that will not cure the long-term problem of reliability," he wrote.

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