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FERC Dismisses Texas Grid Collapse Complaint

On May 26, 2021 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an order, dismissing the complaint in Docket No. EL21-54-000 regarding the Texas Grid collapse in February of 2021.

The Texas grid collapse, responsible for over 150 deaths and between $80 billion–$130 billion in economic loss, was a repeat offense. Similar outages for identical reasons occurred in 1989 and 2011. The government and the industry have failed to fix the underlying critical electric infrastructure issues that caused all three incidents. I filed this complaint with FERC on February 28, 2021 alleging that the weather-related power outages in Texas during the second week of February 2021 demonstrate that either the mandatory North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Reliability Standards were not followed or were ineffective.

NERC and the industry trade associations urged FERC to take no action to investigate whether the existing standards were followed or if improvements to the standards are needed.  At the urging of the industry, FERC dismissed the complaint on a technicality on May 26, 2021 (the very technicality recommended the industry).

Rather than addressing the underlying reliability issues which caused the Texas grid collapse in 2021 – which were identical to the blackouts in 2011 and 1989  – the Commission has heeded the advice of the industry to do nothing other than some more reports and let the industry handle to problem. This outcome is very disappointing. Obviously, nothing changed from the “reports” and recommendations and ultimately industry and regulatory inaction from the past blackouts. There is no reason to believe that more studies and reports will prevent the next one. The industry and the regulators have failed three times in the ERCOT region to address the same problem.

The Commission needs to step up and be a regulator and protect our critical electric infrastructure from known hazards. Instead, they have become little more than the voice of industry lobbyists who continue to propound that no further grid security standards are needed.

Moreover the unaddressed reliability problems are punctuated by a May 27, 2021 Wall Street Journal article: “The Texas Grid Came Close to an Even Bigger Disaster During February Freeze.” The human toll of the Texas grid collapse is still continuing to mount as reported here: “The catastrophic failure of Texas’s power grid in February killed hundreds more people than the state has acknowledged, a BuzzFeed News analysis shows.”

This is just the latest example of this industry and regulatory failure on grid security. On the issues of cybersecurity and physical security, The Commission has also failed to act at the behest of the industry:

  • FERC Docket No. EL20-46-000: The industry has consistently fought against stronger supply chain cybersecurity standards. The inadequacies of the cybersecurity standards were highlighted in a complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on May 11, 2020 about the need for increased supply chain cybersecurity.  At the urging of the industry, on October 2, 2020 FERC dismissed the complaint.  A month and a half later, the SolarWinds supply chain cyber hack came to light.
  • FERC Docket No. EL20‐21‐000: Despite the well-documented physical security problem in the critical electric infrastructure, the industry continues for fight against stronger physical security standards. The inadequacy of the physical security standards was highlighted in a complaint filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on January 29, 2020 alleging that grid physical security was inadequate.  At the urging of the industry, on June 9, 2020 FERC dismissed the complaint.

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