April 11, 2021
The Honorable Kelly Hancock, Chair
The Honorable Robert Nichols, Vice Chair
Senate Committee on Business & Commerce
Texas Senate, Sam Houston Building, 325
Austin, TX 78711-2068
Subject: Testimony of Michael Mabee on SB 1606 – All Hazards Grid Security
Dear Chairman Hancock, Vice-Chair Nichols and other members of the Committee:
I submit this testimony in support of the Texas legislature passing SB 1606 – All Hazards Grid Security. I am a resident of Texas, a retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major, and I maintain the world’s most comprehensive grid security database as an unpaid volunteer grid security researcher. I have been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and many other publications on grid security and have intervened and submitted testimony in over 200 federal dockets on the electric grid security issues.
As of April 6, 2021, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) estimates that the death toll from the 2021 winter storm is 125. Most of the major causes of death reported, such as hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, medical equipment failure, exacerbation of chronic illness, lack of home oxygen, and fire may be inferred as being the result of the failure of the electric grid in Texas.
I filed a Complaint with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) that the industry and regulators either failed to enforce mandatory reliability standards (which apply in Texas as well as the rest of the country) or that the standards were ineffective and must be improved.
The Electric Utility Industry and their non-profit regulators, the Texas Reliability Entity, Inc. (Texas RE), and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) are urging FERC to dismiss the complaint on a technicality. I anticipate this will likely happen. The industry has co-opted FERC, the U.S. Department Energy and the U.S. Congress for years through hundreds of millions of dollars in lobbying and political contributions. Thus, the federal government is likely to do exactly what the industry “advises” them to do.
Not surprisingly, the electric industry wants FERC to dismiss 125 deaths in Texas, the massive impact on the economy and the state’s critical infrastructures on a technicality in order to divert attention from their lack of preparedness and the lax regulatory environment that precipitated this tragedy.
After the Texas electric grid collapse of 2021, once again, the electric industry and NERC tells us that they have the matter well in hand. Isn’t that what they said after the 2011 Texas blackout? The Texas electric grid failed in 1989 and 2011 for largely the same reasons it collapsed 2021. The industry never took effective action after 1989 and 2011 and yet they argue that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) should do nothing more than a “joint inquiry” with NERC.
Ironically, the same industry that has brought us 100 years of scandals – including the Samuel Insull scandal, the Enron scandal and the FirstEnergy bribery scandal – says we should trust them. We should not trust them. We need effective standards and effective regulation. Presently, we have neither.
Texas now has the opportunity to provide leadership on electric grid security that is lacking nationwide The Federal Government’s regulators, departments and agencies have had decades to demonstrate this leadership and take effective action to protect critical infrastructures from all hazards and they have failed. Passing SB 1606 will establish a state-led effort to protect our people and critical infrastructures from hazards long ignored by the industry and its well-lobbied and lackadaisical regulators. Texas must provide this leadership and example. Our security depends on this committee’s actions now, and that of the legislature later to both pass the bill and supervise the work of the Texas Grid Security Commission.
I am submitting for the record my federal complaint about the lack of enforcement and/or inadequacy of the mandatory grid reliability standards and the industry’s responses. This is a compelling (but disturbingly common) example of the industry arguing that nothing but “the norm” is needed in the face of over 125 deaths Texas. It is a disgusting testament as to why, after decades of our grid being vulnerable to many hazards, that today it is still vulnerable to the same hazards. The tail has long been wagging the dog in grid security.
And since “the norm” did nothing to protect us after the 1989 and 2011 blackouts – and at least 125 Texans died in 2021 – only a fool would expect a different result from the industry and the current regulatory regime this time.
Texas must show leadership and pass SB 1606.
Please advise if I can be of further assistance to the Committee.
Exhibit A: Complaint of Michael Mabee in FERC Docket EL21-54-000, February 28, 2021
Exhibit B: Motion of Michael Mabee in Docket EL21-54-000, March 14, 2021
Exhibit C: Motion of Michael Mabee in Docket EL21-54-000, April 1, 2021
Exhibit D: Protest of the Electric Industry “Joint Trade Associations” in Docket EL21-54-000, April 5, 2021
Exhibit E: Motion to Intervene of NERC and Texas RE in Docket EL21-54-000, April 5, 2021
 Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Docket No. EL21-54-000
 The Center for responsive Politics reports that in 2020 the electric utility industry spent $104,739,895 in lobbying and $28,562,003 in contributions to the U.S. Congress. See: https://www.opensecrets.org/industries/totals.php?cycle=2018&ind=E08
 As early as 1981, the General Accounting Office (GAO) has warned that our preparedness for a physical attack against the grid was inadequate. Today the electric grid is still vulnerable to a coordinated physical attack and the industry written physical security standards is completely inadequate. See: “Federal Electrical Emergency Preparedness Is Inadequate.” GAO Report No. EMD-81-50. May 12, 1981. http://bit.ly/354ZN4i and contrast to my analysis on Physical Security to FERC in Docket No. EL20-21-000 available here: https://michaelmabee.info/loopholes-in-grid-physical-security-identified/