Texas’ fix after blackout doesn’t dwell on climate change

May 30, 2021, 8:20 PM | Updated: 9:28 pm

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas’ biggest fix to February’s deadly winter blackout that left more than 4 million people without power puts new attention on projections by the state’s climatologist but does not dwell on climate change after a deep freeze buckled the state’s unprepared electric grid.

A far-reaching bill sent Sunday night to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott would require some power generators to winterize against extreme cold following one of the most massive blackouts in U.S. history. Experts praised some reforms as significant but say concessions to Texas’ powerful oil and gas industry still leaves the grid vulnerable.

At least 151 people died in the winter storm and ensuing blackout, according to the tally kept by state officials, although the actual number of victims is widely believed to be much larger.

President Joe Biden’s national climate adviser called the winter storm a “wake-up call” for the United States to build energy systems and other infrastructure that are more reliable and resilient in the face of extreme-weather events. But in the Texas Capitol, Republican lawmakers sidelined discussion of climate change while trying to get to the root of the blackout and come up with ways to prevent it from happening again.

“Obviously, we have to be able to operate during those type of situations,” said Republican state Rep. Chris Paddie, who carried the bill, while being pressed on climate change before a final vote Sunday. “As far as the reasons for that, that’s always a point of discussion.”

A last-minute addition to the bill requires energy regulators to consider in their planning projections by the state’s climatologist. John Nielsen-Gammon, who has been the Texas state climatologist for two decades, said he was not asked to testify by lawmakers after the blackout but did provide input to the some offices that reached out.

“The cold wasn’t unprecedented, but the combination of extreme cold and widespread snow was extremely unusual,” Nielsen-Gammon said in an email. ” Also, I volunteered the information that climate change was probably making such events less likely rather than more likely.”

Fallout from the outages has slowed since after a burst of firings and resignations of officials involved. Attention to the blackouts also dimmed in the state Capitol as GOP lawmakers raced to pass staunchly conservative laws over abortion, guns and voting restrictions in the final weeks.

During February’s storm, demand for heat soared as temperatures plunged. Roughly a quarter of Texas’ natural gas supply was knocked off line. Failures by fossil fuel plants, including natural gas facilities, contributed twice as many outages as solar and wind generators, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid operator.

After Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas in 2017, a 200-page state report warned that powerful natural disasters will become more frequent because of a changing climate but did not use the phrase “climate change.”

“It’s very hard to prepare for something you’re scared to name,” Democratic state Rep. Erin Zweiner said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - The Treasury Department is seen near sunset in Washington, Jan. 18, 2023. The national debt ...
Associated Press

Lots of sound and fury on US debt, but not a crisis — yet

WASHINGTON (AP) — For all the sound and fury about raising the nation’s debt limit, most economists say federal borrowing is not at a crisis point … at least not yet. The national debt is at the core of a dispute about how to raise the government’s legal borrowing authority, a mostly political argument that […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Law enforcement get ready for a search after a small plane crash in Carteret County, N.C., o...
Associated Press

Lawsuits in NC plane crash that killed 8 settled for $15M

The families of five passengers killed in a 2022 plane crash off the North Carolina coast have settled wrongful death lawsuits against the companies that owned the plane and employed the pilot and the pilot’s estate for $15 million, family representatives announced Friday. All eight people aboard the Pilatus PC-12/47 died when it descended into […]
11 hours ago
FILE -  In this aerial photo taken with a drone, flood waters surround storm damaged homes on Aug. ...
Associated Press

Filipino workers: Oil company abandoned us in Hurricane Ida

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — As Hurricane Ida struck the Louisiana Gulf Coast in August 2021, Renato Decena and Rosel Hernandez watched the storm punch a hole in the roof of the bunkhouse where they were sheltered — abandoned, they allege, by their offshore oil industry employer as the hurricane bore down. “I could not think […]
11 hours ago
FILE - Tubes direct blood from a donor into a bag in Davenport, Iowa, on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.  Th...
Associated Press

FDA moves to ease rules for blood donations from gay men

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is moving to further ease restrictions on blood donations from gay and bisexual men and other groups that typically face higher risks of HIV. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday announced draft guidelines that would do away with the current three-month abstinence requirement for donations from men who have […]
11 hours ago
FILE -Brian Walshe listens during his arraignment Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at Quincy District Cour...
Associated Press

Internet evidence key, but not enough in no-body murder case

BOSTON (AP) — Prosecutors in Massachusetts are basing their murder case against a man whose wife is presumed dead but whose body has not been found in large part on a series of gruesome internet searches he made around the time of her disappearance. Scouring data on personal electronic devices is a common strategy in […]
11 hours ago
Associated Press

Explosion in Polish parish house kills 1, injures 7

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Officials in southern Poland said that a person was found dead Friday after an explosion demolished half of an old Evangelical parish house in the city of Katowice. The explosion injured at least seven people, and one person remained missing, according to the regional governor. Gov. Jaroslaw Wieczorek said two women […]
11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Pexels Photo)...

Sports gambling can be fun for adults, but it’s a dangerous game for children

While adults may find that sports gambling is a way to enhance the experience with more than just fandom on the line, it can be a dangerous proposition if children get involved in the activity.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet edges out cable for everyday use

In a world where technology drives so much of our daily lives, a lack of high-speed internet can be a major issue.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
Texas’ fix after blackout doesn’t dwell on climate change