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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Investigations of the Texas electricity crisis — a disaster with fatal consequences — are proliferating in the state and the Beltway.

Why it matters: The inquiries could bring regulatory changes to Texas' independent grid aimed at better preparation for extreme weather.

They could also bring new protections against massive power costs in Texas' freewheeling market that expose people to bills that reach thousands of dollars.

Driving the news: The various plans or calls for inquiries include...

  • Texas' public utility commission on Friday launched a probe of the "factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes."
  • Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a key member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, tweeted he's launching an investigation that will include "why so many fossil fuel sources failed, why ERCOT wasn’t better prepared, & who participated in the conspiracy to falsely blame renewables."
  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on Friday formally demanded copies of communications and other documents from ERCOT and Texas power companies related to the event.
  • Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), in a letter Saturday, urged federal energy and commodity regulators to explore the huge spikes in natural gas prices in multiple central U.S. states during the cold snap.

Catch up fast: The flurry of activity follows previously announced efforts and inquiries.

  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said the House Energy and Commerce Committee is planning an inquiry, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded a state legislative investigation.
  • The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's sway over Texas' independent grid is limited. But it has begun looking more broadly at several states' power system performance in winter conditions and Chairman Richard Glick last week said he's open to new mandatory requirements that would cover Texas.

What's next: Via KXAN, an Austin NBC affiliate, officials from ERCOT and the public utility commission will appear before state lawmakers this week.

"The Texas House State Affairs Committee and Energy Resources Committee will hold a joint hearing on Feb. 25, as will the Senate Business and Commerce Committee," it reports.

Go deeper

Texas officials launch inquiry into winter storm energy bills spike

A neighborhood in Waco, Texas, amid power outages over the state on Feb. 17. Photo by Matthew Busch /AFP via Getty Images

Officials in Texas announced Saturday investigations into the causes of the state's widespread power outages and an energy bills spike following the state's winter storms.

Why it matters: Millions of Texans lost power and water during last week's storms. In the aftermath, wholesale power prices rose from roughly $50 per megawatt hour to $9,000, WFAA reports — noting some Texans faced bills of up to $17,000 so far this month.

AOC raises $5 million for Texas relief fund

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez during a November news conference. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) announced Sunday night that her fundraising efforts for a Texas relief fund "just hit $5 million."

The big picture: Ocasio-Cortez launched the fundraiser last Thursday, as Texas was gripped by a deadly winter weather emergency that saw millions of people Texans lose power and water.

Sen. Tina Smith calls for probe into natural gas price hikes during winter storms

Sen. Tina Smith arrives in the US Capitol on the first day of Trump's second impeachment on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP

Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) is calling for federal investigations into possible price gouging of natural gas in areas afflicted by the severe winter storms that have caused power outages in Texas and other large swaths of the country.

Why it matters: In a letter to regulators sent Saturday, Smith said spot prices for natural gas increased by over 100 times their typical levels, raising utility costs for people in the affected areas.