In The Washington Times of Feb. 27, 2021, Michael McKenna observed that the "Real failure in the Texas Blackouts is the failure of responsibility" — which cost the lives of at least 80 people, left millions of rate payers at substantial financial risk, and damaged thousands of companies and small businesses.
He observed the technological failures were caused by poor natural gas system weatherization, wind power limitations, and premature coal-fired generation retirement.
He blamed these failures on the Texas state government and its affiliates over the past 15 years, during which authority for managing the electric power grid was passed to regional transmission organizations or independent system operators.
McKenna indicated that the governor, legislature and Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) have had little influence with the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that alleges to manage the flow of electric power to more than 26 million Texas customers.
ERCOT’s members include consumers, cooperatives, generators, power marketers, retail electric providers, investor-owned electric utilities, transmission and distribution providers and municipally owned electric utilities.
ERCOT’s webpage observed that it is subject to oversight by the Texas PUC and the legislature, but McKenna suggested that ERCOT is led by a pretty much self-appointed Board of Directors.
As reported by the March 1, 2021 Blue Ribbon News, McKenna’s perspective is reinforced by Texas State Senator Bob Hall, who has unsuccessfully sponsored legislation in the past four-sessions of Texas Legislature (which meets only every other year) to protect the Texas electric power grid from natural and manmade threats.
He hopes for a better response this time.
State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Texas, commented, "Plain and simple — when it comes to electric grid security, state government has failed the people of Texas. Now that even the greatest skeptics see how vulnerable we really are, I want to assure the people of Texas that I am more committed than ever to ensuring our grid security and resilient community legislation passes this session."
Thus, Sen. Hall believes his colleagues now recognize the seriousness of this issue, and that the "most important thing we can do for the people is to hold accountable the special interests who have misled legislators into believing that both the natural and manmade threats to the electric grid are not real and that our infrastructure is in exceptionally good condition. We now know that is not true . . . The time for studying the issue has passed! The facts are before our very eyes."
An important sign of change was Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick calling for the resignation of the Chairs of the Texas PUC and of ERCOT — and they obliged him.
As Texas "powers that be" plot next steps, I urge that their local and state authorities work to correct past shortcomings of ERCOT and the PUC, without succumbing to the siren calls of those who want to extend the federal regulatory authorities into the affairs of Texas. I firmly believe that we should address these important matters from the “bottom up” at the local and state level, rather than depending on federal authorities.
If Texas succeeds in this "bottom up" approach, they will set a pattern the rest of the nation can follow! And our efforts in South Carolina have already set the stage to demonstrate how that model can work.
I testified before the May 4, 2017 Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, describing our South Carolina efforts that were executing a related "bottom-up" effort.
We have worked with Duke Energy and local authorities to assess the vulnerability of the York County Distribution Grid and the cost to protect it to the same standards that protect our most important military systems against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.
The one-time cost, $100 per York County citizen, would be supplemented by much less annual funding to maintain that survivability. We have been waiting on “the powers that be” to provided needed funding—proving that resistance to protecting our grid is not expense, it is political and bureaucratic.
More for another day. But if Texans also follow this same approach to protect the Texas grid, South Carolina could join forces to demonstrate to rest of the nation how their "bottom-up" approach can be exported.
After all, officials at Joint Base San Antonio in Lackland, Texas just issued a "request for quote" for an EMP tailored survey of the Petroleum, Oil and Lubrication complex, consisting of multiple buildings on the base connected by an underground pipeline. Missions of South Carolina National Guardsmen can be linked with those activities, an initiative that South Carolina’s Adjutant General could support.
I know and respect Sen. Bob Hall; am very interested in his Texas efforts and want his support in extending their Joint Base San Antonio project "lessons-learned" to help protect South Carolina’s electric power grid against the existential EMP threat.
Such an attack strategy is included in the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. And we are all vulnerable to such an attack.
In the 1960s, he and I were Air Force officers involved in protecting our most important strategic systems against nuclear weapons effects, especially EMP— which today represents an existential threat to all Americans. A nuclear weapon or so detonated high above the United States could shut down the entire nation’s electric power grid for an indefinite period.
Our Texas friends learned what doing without electricity for a few days is like — we all can only imagine what it would be like if the entire nation were without electricity for months.
The Congressional EMP Commission judged many years ago that most Americans would die from starvation, disease, and societal collapse. And like the naïve Texans in early February — before their unusually cold weather, we are unprepared for such an attack.
We all should join our Texas friends to sing to the Texas powers that be, “The eyes of Texas are upon you . . . " Ours, too!
Ambassador Henry F. (Hank) Cooper, Chairman of High Frontier and an acknowledged expert on strategic and space national security issues, was President Ronald Reagan's Chief Negotiator at the Geneva Defense and Space Talks with the Soviet Union and Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Director during the George H.W. Bush administration. Previously, he served as the Assistant Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Deputy Assistant USAF Secretary, Science Adviser to the Air Force Weapons Laboratory and a USAF Reserve Captain. In the private sector he was Chairman of Applied Research Associates, a high technology company; member of the technical staff of Jaycor, R&D Associates and Bell Telephone Laboratories; a Senior Associate of the National Institute for Public Policy; and Visiting Fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He received B.S. and M.S. degrees from Clemson and a PhD from New York University, all in Mechanical Engineering. Read Ambassador Cooper's Reports — More Here.
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