Ann de Rouffignac
HOUSTON, Nov. 1, 2001 — Texas lawmakers have scheduled a closed-door session Friday to discuss security of the state’s electricity grid and nuclear plants.
The Texas Electric Utility Restructuring Legislative Oversight Committee will meet in closed session before a previously scheduled open meeting to review the readiness of the market in Texas for competition.
The committee has invited executives from units of the state’s two largest investor-owned utilities — TXU Corp. and Reliant Energy Inc. — to testify during the security session.
Also invited were Sam Jones, chief operating officer of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, and Joe Beal, general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority, which operates the state’s only hydroelectric power plants.
Texas Public Utility Commissioner Rebecca Klein, a member of the Governor’s Homeland Defense Task Force, will also testify.
Last week Rep. Steven Wolens (D-Dallas), cochairman of the oversight committee, asked Texas Atty. Gen. John Cornyn for clarification on procedures to hold a closed hearing. He said the session is intended to examine the physical security of the bulk electric power system, including four nuclear electric reactors, power plants fueled by large natural gas pipelines, and 37,000 miles of high voltage transmission lines.
The committee needs details concerning deployment of security personnel, devices, and procedures under a variety of possible circumstances, in order to fulfill its oversight duties, information that would be compromised if open to the public, he said.
The agenda of the meeting will not be released and will only be available by court order, staffers for Wolens said. Wolens told the attorney general the purpose of the meeting was to hear invited testimony from “utility security managers, nuclear power plant managers, public utility commissioners, staff of the independent system operator, and other appropriate persons on the implementation of security measures.”
Two of the 11 people invited to testify are directly involved with the nuclear plants: William Cottle, CEO of the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Co., and Lance Terry, principal nuclear officer of TXU Corp.
The other utility personnel scheduled to appear include John Houston, vice president, transmission and substation operations; Stephen Schaeffer, senior vice-president, regulatory affairs; and James Sheppard, manager, meter reading and field services, all of Reliant Energy; Curtis Seidlits, executive vice-president, government affairs; Mike Green, executive vice-president, transmission; and Mike McCall, vice president, regulatory affairs, all of TXU.
Some observers speculated the closed-door meeting could also include a discussion of the recovery of security expenses in the new competitive environment.