Brooks Williams, Ferris City Manager Considers A Run For Governor
FERRIS – Ferris City Manager, Brooks Williams says he is frustrated enough at this week’s power outage events to take some of his friends and colleagues up on the suggestion to run for governor in 2022.
“If something doesn’t happen now to address the issues that have happened this week with millions of Texans being without power in below freezing temperatures then the texts, messages and calls I have received will not go unheeded,” Williams said.
Williams, a Texas native said his slogan “Indictment of politics as usual,” is a direction he believes needs to be taken in politics right now.
“People are tired of politics. They want results. I am beginning to think running for governor and indicting politics ‘as usual’ is the right move,” Williams said. “Let me tell you something – no one is ready for the efficiency and effectiveness I demand. At least no one who wants to continue to inefficiency and lack of motivation that exists in government today.”
“It it is time for a change in leadership,” Williams said after being on the phone the last few days asking questions for not just the residents of Ferris, but also the residents of the State of Texas. Questions about the unprecedented power outages that will end up costing the state billions of dollars.
Roll Up Our Sleeves & Take Action
To begin, Williams explains “instead of talking about what those like Texas Governor Greg Abbott is or is not doing along with his Public Utility Commission (PUC) appointees let’s take action. In the wake of as many as 4.3 million Texans who had no power as of Tuesday morning including residents in Ferris, I am saying let’s roll up our sleeves, let’s ask some questions.”
Williams had a few questions he wanted to get to the bottom of Wednesday morning too as he slowly began chipping at the tip of the iceberg.
The Problems With ERCOT
One point that he said is causing him to take pause is Gov. Abbott’s announcement he would call for firings at ERCOT.
ERCOT is merely a membership-based 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation, governed by a board of directors and subject to oversight by the Public Utility Commission of Texas and the Texas Legislature.
“The Representative, Mr. Leach is “shocked”?,” Williams said. “This is the problem! A member of the body with direct oversight being shocked at who is on a board he has oversight of. A better response would have been – ‘I am aware and agree that is a mistake and needs to be changed.’”
Gov. Abbott himself appointed the three commissioners; DeAnn T. Walker, Chairman , who previously served as the Senior Policy Advisor to Governor Abbott on matters related to regulated industries according to her biography at the PUC website; Arthur C D’Andrea, Commissioner, who has served as Assistant General Counsel to Governor Abbott and Shelley Botkin, Commissioner, who served as Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) “where she worked to build awareness of the organization’s vital role in managing the electric grid for most of Texas,” according to her biography on the PUC website.
The Public Utility Commission’s goal is, according to its website to regulate the state’s electric, telecommunication, and water and sewer utilities, implements respective legislation, and offers customer assistance in resolving consumer complaints.
“Whatever the fact, someone dropped the ball” and Williams added “This shouldn’t be happening. This clearly points to an infrastructure issue in the State…”
ERCOT Directed Oncor To Drop Power Load
Oncor issued an emergency update Tuesday saying that due to ongoing record-low temperatures and generation ERCOT has continued to direct Oncor and utilities across Texas to drop power load through maintained controlled outages.”
Williams said “Equipment literally froze in the single digit temperature and stopped working. Then, as reserves diminished, ERCOT asked transmission providers like Oncor to turn off large industrial users that had previously agreed to be shut down. But, the situation deteriorated quickly, requiring rotating outages that have lasted hours for many Texans.”
On Wednesday, Gov. Abbott gave an update on the state’s response to the severe weather and power outages stating “The State of Texas is working around the clock to provide the resources, assistance, and support that our communities need to respond to the impacts of this winter weather,” the Governor said. “We will continue to exhaust all available methods to restore power for Texans and ensure that our communities can recover.”
The impact being Wednesday’s still shaky power situation with about 10,000 megawatts (MW) still off the power grid.
He also indicated that in addition to the 6,000 MW restored to the grid, additional power generation from coal and other sources will continue to come online throughout tomorrow.
Texas Is Reactive, Time To Be Proactive
Williams reels it back to the issues that got the state where it is anyway, at a time when reactive versus proactive is the norm.
In a press release Williams released Wednesday it said ,“ Yesterday afternoon an email was sent to Bill Magness, CEO of ERCOT, requesting a meeting to better understand the situation that we are facing across this state, with our primary focus being the City of Ferris and our residents that are impacted by this storm and the corresponding power outages. As you all know, people demand and deserve transparency and want an understanding of situations (through information) more than ever before.”
Upon receiving the request, Williams said Magness did reply to the email and arranged for him to speak with Rob Orr, Director of Government Relations with ERCOT.
One question Williams asked was the situation that had been suggested that ERCOT had sold energy contracts to the Northeast part of the United States, not anticipating a high demand this winter. Then, when offered the opportunity to buy the contracts back for a higher price, ERCOT opted not to so as not to take a financial loss.
Williams said Orr told him, “We are not interconnected enough to sell massive amounts and if we sold any it would not be much.”
Williams added “I don’t believe he does not know how much was actually sold for a minute – he knows how much was sold.”
‘Bleeding Edge of Chaos & Disaster’
Williams explained over the last few years, Texas has taken its electrical generating capacity to the brink – to what some would call “the bleeding edge of chaos and disaster. The state has shuttered power plants at a greater rate than we have built them. We have shut down coal fired plants without bringing new natural gas or nuclear plants online to replace them. The wind turbines across West Texas are frozen,” Williams said.
He added, “one of the most disappointing discoveries from our calls this morning is learning that ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, had a plan in place to bolster the grid in situations like this – by demanding that large commercial customers with generators go off the grid to conserve power for homes. In exchange for participation in this program, the participants received a discount on their monthly power bills. It was an example of a contingency plan that made sense and provided much needed power during times exactly like this.”
He then explained that a few years ago, ERCOT removed a lot of businesses participating in this program.
Williams said it was because “ERCOT determined that the participants generators were ‘too old’ and therefore, ‘too polluting’. We had the benefit of becoming very familiar with one of them today, and their generators are sitting idle, perfectly functional but deemed ‘too polluting’ to be a part of ERCOT’s program anymore. If those generators (for this single company) had been called into service during this storm, 400 more homes could have power right now. But they weren’t and they don’t. This is an extreme disappointment. This means THOUSANDS of homes could have power and they do not.”
Public Policy Should Be Dictated By Common Sense
Williams believes public policy needs to be dictated by common sense, not feel-good measures, which were clearly not adequately studied and the impact to people not considered.
He said the remainder of his conversation with ERCOT Wednesday including ERCOT selling contracts to other portions of the country also included the PUC and its structure as it relates to oversight and accountability with ERCOT, the communicated plan of ‘rolling’ blackouts and the failure of that to occur, the PDSA (Plan, Do, Study, Act) execution by ERCOT and what take-a-ways/learnings have they seen from this, the process and dynamic of their oversight of the generation capabilities/companies, maintenance/winterization of equipment for events such as this, the overall power grid and the lack of attention that has been placed on this and the wind/solar initiatives that have failed during this event, the nuclear contingency and why that has not been activated and the rate increases that were jointly announced by ERCOT and the PUC yesterday because of supply/demand.
“Shame on you,” Williams said in a memo calling on Gov. Abbott, Dan Patrick, Public Utility Commission of Texas and Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
Williams Says He Loves Ferris & He Loves Texas
“While I love my job as the City Manager of Ferris, I also love Texas overall,” Williams stated. “In fact, wading into the realm of politics and what by some is considered an ugly nasty world is not an easy decision I would make, if not for lives are being affected severely even as I speak. I would be going from a position where we are making a difference everyday and we have worked hard to remove the government inefficiency, into to realm of all things ineffective and inefficient. After all, we know more than four million homes were without power last night in Texas, those of you in our community that were some of them know that struggle all too well,” Williams added. “This is pure insanity. We urge you to contact your elected state officials and demand change. As a City, we have sent messages to our respective representatives, the Lt. Governor, and the Governor.”
While there are still more questions than answers in who is responsible for the power outages and who will take responsibility for such an antiquated situation, Williams concluded “I’ve been asked to run and I don’t know that State politics is ready for the high-energy/results driven culture I would demand. Running could be a consideration if it will make Texas a better place to call home. My intention is never to upset anyone with the information I provide, but overall transparency breeds a self-correcting government, and we feel these items are important for taxpayers to know.”