Texas leaders raked in millions from energy companies after the collapse of the state electrical grid in February, report shows

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Texas leaders raked in millions from energy companies after the collapse of the state electrical grid in February, report shows
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a border security briefing on June 30, 2021 in Weslaco, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick received millions in contributions from the energy industry, a new Texas Tribune report shows.
  • Abbott received $4.6 million from energy industry contacts compared to Patrick's $1.3 million.
  • Abbott's special legislative session will not include any fixes to the state electrical grid.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders raked in millions in campaign contributions from energy companies after the state electrical grid collapsed in February, according to the Texas Tribune.

An abysmal cold front swept over Texas in February, causing the power grid to fail in several regions of the state. Nearly 200 people ultimately died of hypothermia, carbon monoxide poisoning, car wrecks, and more after the electrical grid could not keep up with the large uptick in energy demand.

Texas legislators are barred from taking campaign donations while the main legislative session is ongoing. The close of the session in May ushered in a downpour of cash from the energy industry toward some of the state's most influential leaders, namely Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.

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Abbott reportedly brought in $4.6 million from oil, gas, and energy industry leaders including a $1 million campaign donation from the co-founder of a pipeline company that benefitted from the February winter failure to the tune of $2.4 billion. The Texas Tribune noted that the co-founder donates $250,000 almost every year to Abbott - the only year he donated substantially more was in 2021.

Abbott's next-in-line, Patrick, also received a windfall from energy companies following the February freeze, the Tribune reported. He brought in $1.3 million in total from energy interest groups in 2021, or just over a quarter of his total received contributions in 2021. He received about 12% more from energy interests in 2021 than he did in 2019, according to the Tribune, and the majority of his recent energy contributions were from oil executives.

In June, Abbott signed two bills into law with the intention of weatherizing local energy grids to prevent a similar February fallout.

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"Everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas," Abbott said after signing the legislation.

The laws, however, don't require energy companies to take action until 2022 at the earliest. Calls to reform the electrical grid were renewed quickly after Abbott signed the bills when the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) warned residents to conserve power amidst sweltering summer temperatures in the state after several generators faced outages.

Despite the repeated energy grid strains, Abbott did not include anything related to fixing the power grid on the agenda of his first special legislative session of 2021, which ends August 6. Abbott is expected to call for a second special session, and barring an executive order from him, Texas lawmakers will be hamstrung from passing additional reforms to the power grid unless House Democrats return after staging a walkout to break quorum and prevent restrictive voting laws from passing.

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It's unclear if House Democrats will travel back to Austin if a second special session is called. Many of the Democratic members currently remain in Washington, DC, to meet with party leaders, and two representatives were spotted on Tuesday vacationing in Portugal.

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