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Texas lawmakers consider making ERCOT a state agency for better oversight

“I think we may see a move to bring ERCOT back in as a state agency or, if it’s still a private company, we’ll have many more controls," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

DALLAS — After the deadly statewide power outages last month, Texas leaders are considering making ERCOT a state agency in order to have more direct oversight of it.

“I think we may see a move to bring ERCOT back in as a state agency or, if it’s still a private company, we’ll have many more controls, including who sits on the board, because we want to know who those people are,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick on Sunday’s Inside Texas Politics. “We, as elected officials, are held responsible for those actions. I don’t like being held responsible to a company that I have little to no control over.”

ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, manages the state’s power grid and has become the face of the deadly power outages in below freezing temperatures last month, though privately-owned power plants are the ones that actually failed in the crisis. Lawmakers accuse ERCOT of failing to imagine such a weather scenario and not preparing enough to have extra electricity in the days ahead of the storm.

In 1999, ERCOT was established as its own non-private corporation. The Texas Public Utility Commission, with a three-member appointed board, regulates the state’s electric, water and telecommunication utilities.

But under the current structure, ERCOT is too far removed from direct public accountability, Patrick said.

“This private company, they have been electing their own board members, and as we know from outside of Texas. When one board member steps down, they kind of pick their successor.  You know, it’s worked for 20 years this way.  Well, it crashed several weeks ago.  And it’s not going to work that way anymore,” Patrick said on the television program.

The state’s second-highest ranking leader also defended the governor’s plan to allow businesses to reopen on Wednesday at full capacity and drop the mandate that everyone wear a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The number of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations has steadily dropped in the state but still remain very high.

And there are still millions of Texans awaiting the vaccine, which has been slow to roll out.

Private businesses can still require individuals to wear masks and Patrick said he’ll still don his masks at times.

“I try to be respectful of the people I’m around, and I think most people in Texas now have made a decision in their own lives, that they will [either] be maskless much of the time or always with a mask,” Patrick said.