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ERCOT asked feds to pause federal environmental limits during winter storm

As last week’s historic winter storm was rolling across Texas, officials with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, ERCOT, was asking the federal government to temporarily suspend environmental limits for several power producers.

The request, signed by ERCOT CEO Bill Magness, asked for the U.S. Department of Energy to issue an emergency order and declare an “electric reliability emergency exists within the state of Texas that requires intervention by the Secretary.”

The request was sent on Feb. 14 and asks the Acting Secretary of Energy, David Huizenga, to allow certain power plants to operate at maximum levels and be allowed to exceed federal limits on emissions and wastewater release until Feb. 19.

“This duration will ensure additional supply is available during a period in which ERCOT may continue to experience unprecedented cold weather that has forced generation out of service,” the emergency request read. “In ERCOT’s judgment, the loss of power to homes and local businesses in the areas affected by curtailments presents a far greater risk to public health and safety than the temporary exceedances of those permit limits.”

The request to the DOE notes the storm is “expected to result in record winter electricity demand that will exceed even ERCOT’s most extreme seasonal load forecast,” and “this period will go down in Texas weather history as one of the most extreme events to ever impact the state.”

The DOE granted ERCOT’s request at 7:41 p.m. CST on Feb. 14. ERCOT officials could not tell KPRC 2 at what time the request to DOE was made, but did provide us with a notice to “All ERCOT Market Participants,” notifying them of the DOE request at 5:58 p.m. CST.

You can read the full notice here.

The wording of the request strikes a very different tone than public statements ERCOT officials made three days prior.

“At this time, we believe that we have the tools in place to maintain a reliable system,” ERCOT spokesperson Leslie Sopko told KPRC 2 on Feb. 11.

While ERCOT did issue news on Feb. 14 asking the public to conserve energy, several elected officials have criticized the organization for not sounding more of an alarm.

“If someone had told us, ‘we’re in big trouble,’ we would have made completely different decisions,” said Galveston County Judge Mark Henry. “We would have opened up warming centers, we would have given people a place to go.” Read from source….