Is San Antonio’s infrastructure ready for another winter storm? Breakdown with #StephAndSteve

On Wednesday, CPS Energy CEO Rudy Garza, Councilwoman Ana Sandoval and others joined hosts Stephania Jimenez and Steve Spriester

SAN ANTONIO – During last year’s winter storm, hundreds of thousands of residents in Bexar County and the surrounding area were without power for several days. Tens of millions of Texans battled the days-long sub-freezing temperatures without power, and, in some cases, running water. At least 246 people also died statewide as a result of the storm.

This led to both the Texas Legislature, ERCOT and CPS Energy making changes meant to avoid a repeat of last year’s catastrophic power grid failure. But, will it be enough to prevent another major blackout?

In the first episode of Breakdown with #StephAndSteve, KSAT 12 anchors Steve Spriester and Stephania Jimenez are joined by local experts, stakeholders and a San Antonio City Council member to take a closer look at the changes. They explore whether those changes have prepared San Antonio and other communities across Texas for the next big freeze.

The guests include:

  • CPS Energy CEO and interim president Rudy Garza
  • District 7 City Councilwoman Ana Sandoval
  • Ed Hirs, professor of vitality economics at the University of Houston
  • Demonte Alexander, San Antonio-based Public Affairs Consultant
  • Dillon Collier, KSAT Defenders investigative reporter

Since the winter storm, CPS Energy has made several changes. Garza said the public utility has done more to weatherize their power generation and fix the infrastructure.

He also said CPS Energy never thought the winter storm would get as bad as it did.

“We never contemplated an event of that scale,” Garza said. “We’ve gone back in and really reprogrammed that to make sure we can meet that type of catastrophic event.”

During an interview on 'Breakdown with #StephAndSteve' Rudy Garza gave insight into CPS Energy's ongoing legal battles since 2021 winter storm

During the power portion of the livestream, Hirs said CPS Energy was not prepared for the freeze in Feb. 2021. He said during a freeze in 2011, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission suggested changes CPS Energy should make to protect generators. Hirs says those changes were not made.

“You have to pay for reliability,” Hirs said. “Until San Antonio comes to grips with providing a basic commodity service, and paying for it, you’re going to have a real problem.”

Garza also spoke about the lawsuits between CPS Energy, ERCOT and the many other natural gas suppliers in the state. Right now, there are currently 18 lawsuits with suppliers, and there is still ongoing litigation with ERCOT.

“We’re making that fight for our customers,” said Garza. “The implications of our lawsuits will affect customers across the entire state of Texas. Our lawsuits will dictate policy if we’re successful in the future.”

Collier also talked about the lawsuit between CPS Energy and ERCOT. Last month, the Texas 4th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed CPS Energy’s lawsuit against ERCOT. CPS Energy then appealed the ruling to the Texas Supreme Court.

“It’s very important for CPS Energy to try and get this thing before the Supreme Court, get a ruling from them and decide what they want to do from there, because this lawsuit is costing a lot of money,” Collier said.

During her interview, Councilwoman Sandoval reflected on what she and her constituents experienced during the 2021 winter storm.

“It was a really difficult few days,” said Sandoval. “I think it was terrible for so many people to go through that we still talk about it today.”

On 'Breakdown with #StephAndSteve' Councilwoman Ana Sandoval talks about holding CPS accountable and last years winter storm

Sandoval also said the city council is making sure CPS Energy is ready for another major winter weather event.

“Your local government is doing everything they can to help you when that happens again and we are holding CPS accountable like we haven’t before,” she said.

CPS Energy’s public image was also a topic during the livestream. Alexander said CPS Energy took the first step toward fixing their public image by admitting where they messed up and accepting blame. He says during the freezing weather on Feb. 3, you could tell improvements had been made.

“The communication was better, the flow of communication and what they communicated to you and how they communicated was better,” Alexander said. “It was a unified effort between all of our utilities and the city, so it was much better.”

The full livestream is available to watch in the player above.

Talk to #StephAndSteve

If there are any topics you would like to see covered on the show’s future episodes, use #StephAndSteve and post your idea on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also fill out the form below to submit your story ideas.

Episode 2

The second episode of Breakdown with #StephAndSteve will stream live at 7 p.m. on Feb. 23 and preview the Texas primary election.

The hosts will speak with local election experts and candidates and preview the biggest races in Bexar County.

Episode 3

The third episode will be Breakdown Election coverage on March 1 at 7 p.m. as election results pour in.

Steve and Stephania will keep you up to date on all of the local and statewide election results as the polls close, as well as provide analysis and reaction from local candidates and campaigns.

How to watch

The show streams on all KSAT’s digital platforms, including:

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About the Authors:

Landon Lowe is a news producer for KSAT 12. He previously worked at the NBC/Fox affiliate in Baton Rouge, LA, where he was the senior news producer and political producer.

Steve Spriester started at KSAT in 1995 as a general assignments reporter. Now, he anchors the station's top-rated 5, 6 and 10 p.m. newscasts.