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The U.S. and Texas flags fly in front of high voltage transmission towers in Houston in February. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Weather-related problems were the leading cause of Texas power plants going offline during February's record cold snap that left millions of Texans in the dark, a preliminary report published Tuesday states.

Why it matters: These initial findings from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the flow of electric power in the state, indicate that many facilities were unable to cope with the extreme weather.

Details: 54% of outages could be attributed to the cold during the winter storm, which caused the deaths of 125 people.

  • This "includes but is not limited to frozen equipment — including frozen sensing lines, frozen water lines, and frozen valves — ice accumulation on wind turbine blades, ice/snow cover on solar panels, exceedances of low temperature limits for wind turbines, and flooded equipment due to ice/snow melt," per the report.
  • The next leading causes were outages that existed before the storm, such as for scheduled shutdowns (15%) and equipment failure that was unrelated to the weather (14%).

For the record: Texas officials have launched a series of investigations into the winter storm power crisis.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Andrew Freedman: While it's significant that ERCOT has admitted this, the key question is whether officials will take any action to require utilities to harden their systems to prevent against a repeat.

What to watch: A bill designed to overhaul the Texas power market and grid, which would "authorize fines of up to $1 million per day for electricity and natural gas companies that don't winterize appropriately" has already has passed the state Senate and is now before the House, per the Austin-American Statesman.

Read the preliminary report in full, via DocumentCloud:

Go deeper: The politics of the Texas power crisis

Go deeper

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.

How long it’s taken to confirm Supreme Court justices

Expand chart
Data: Axios research, U.S. Supreme Court, Supreme Court Historical Society; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

It takes a U.S. president an average of 70 days from the date a Supreme Court seat is vacated to nominate a replacement, according to data from the Supreme Court Historical Society.

Why it matters: With news outlets reporting liberal Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer's plans to retire, Democrats will be looking to confirm President Biden's nominee with enough time to refocus the national political debate ahead of the midterms.

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