Three months before an Arctic blast took down power service in Texas, the state’s utilities regulator fired the independent monitor hired to make sure electric providers complied with reliability standards, the Houston Chronicle has reported.
The action was taken by the state’s Public Utility Commission, or PUC, which includes three people appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott. The commission oversees utilities in the state and the power grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT.
A spokesman for the PUC told the Chronicle the agency had enough protections in place to ensure companies followed state guidelines without the little-known nonprofit called the Texas Reliability Entity.
“Basically what they were, were the independent auditors,” explained Jay Root, investigative reporter for the Houston Chronicle. Root told the Standard that firing of the monitor did not cause the massive power outages Texans experienced a week ago.
“This didn’t cause the blackout, but it just shows you that one more regulatory layer, the independent oversight layer, got stripped away in the weeks and months before this happened,” Root said.
Root says the PUC had been troubled by the Texas Reliability Entity’s budget, and that they did not have better control over it. So the contract was discontinued, and on Feb. 12, ERCOT officials discussed doing the audit role themselves – something the power grid manager did years ago.