Fact Check: Were Texas Leaders Warned About Potential Power Blackouts?

Our weekly check in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Brandon Mulder, PolitiFact/Austin American-Statesman; radio story produced by Alexandra HartFebruary 24, 2021 2:49 pm, ,

From PolitiFact Texas:

Beto O’Rourke said Texas was warned for years about power grid

The massive power outage in Texas that left millions with no heat amid frigid temperatures should have come as no surprise, according to former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke.

“Texans are suffering without power because those in power have failed us,” said O’Rourke in a Twitter thread, calling out Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“State leaders don’t get to say that they didn’t see this coming. Energy experts and State House Dems, among others, were warning of this for years. Abbott chose to ignore the facts, the science and the tough decisions and now Texans will once again pay the price,” tweeted O’Rourke, a 2019 Democratic presidential candidate.

We found that O’Rourke spoke accurately — there had been years of warnings by energy experts about the state’s power system following cold weather in February 2011, when around 200 generating units faltered, causing power outages for 3.2 million customers, according to a post-mortem of that crisis.

Federal report warned about lack of winterization

In August 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Electric Reliability Corp., wrote a 357-page report about the February 2011 outage.

The report stated that in 1989, after cold weather caused many generators to fail, the Public Utility Commission of Texas issued a number of recommendations aimed at improving winterization of the generators. However, “these recommendations were not mandatory, and over the course of time implementation lapsed. Many of the generators that experienced outages in 1989 failed again in 2011,” the report stated.

The report found that in 2011 “the generators did not adequately anticipate the full impact of the extended cold weather and high winds.” More thorough preparation for cold weather could have prevented many of the weather-related outages, the report found.

There are a lot of similarities between the deficiencies in the grid cited in the 2011 report and those now, said Dave Tuttle, an Energy Institute research associate at the University of Texas at Austin, in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman

Read the full story and see how O’Rourke’s claim rated at PolitiFact Texas, and listen to an interview with PolitiFact’s Brandon Mulder in the audio player above.

If you found the reporting above valuable, please consider making a donation to support it here. Your gift helps pay for everything you find on texasstandard.org and KUT.org. Thanks for donating today.