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Feds say tougher rules needed to protect Texas power plants

David Koenig, The Associated Press  


    DALLAS (AP) — Federal officials made more than two dozen recommendations Thursday aimed at further safeguarding power plants and natural gas supplies to prevent a repeat of the February blackouts that caused more than 200 deaths in Texas.

    Staff at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the North American Reliability Corp. made their recommendations to FERC's four commissioners while presenting a preliminary report on the February disaster, which left millions of people without power during subfreezing temperatures.

    “The situation didn’t need to be as bad as it was,” said FERC Chairman Richard Glick. He said changes should have been made after a winter storm caused blackouts in Texas in 2011, when a report called for the mandatory weatherization of power plants.

    “But somehow that recommendation eventually was watered down to guidelines that few generators actually followed,” said Glick, a former Democratic congressional staff lawyer. “I can guarantee you that this time, FERC will not let these recommendations be ignored or watered down.”

    In the preliminary report, officials recommended that power providers be required to meet tougher standards for protecting their plants from freezing temperatures and that they should be able to seek compensation for the cost of winterizing them. Such a change would make Texas’ deregulated electricity market more like those in other states.

    They said natural gas facilities also should have cold-weather plans and be able to operate during weather emergencies. That could mean adding heating equipment and backup generators in case the power fails.

    According to the report, freezing issues were the largest cause of outages, at 44%. That included frozen instruments and wind turbine blades. Fuel supply problems were the next biggest factor, at 31%. Supply issues were mostly related to natural gas, including frozen wellheads.

    A final report is expected in November.


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