ERCOT, the Texas power grid operator, has two new board members: Paul Foster, former executive chair of Western Refining Inc. and Chairman of Franklin Mountain Energy, and Carlos Aguilar, president of Texas Central Partners LLC, the company behind the Dallas-Houston high speed train proposal.
Foster was also named chair of the ERCOT board of directors by the ERCOT Board Selection Committee. He also happens to be a major donor to Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, all of whom appointed members of the Selection Committee. He gave Abbott and Patrick a combined $350,000 last June and $50,000 to Phelan last December.
This is the result of the ERCOT “reforms” passed by the Texas Legislature last Spring, giving politicians more influence on who serves on boards. The members are Buc-ee’s CEO Arch “Beaver” Aplin III, who was appointed by Abbott, Dallas lobbyist and tax consultant G. Brint Ryan, who was appointed by Patrick, and Austin attorney Bill Jones, who was appointed by Phelan.
These board members were also major donors to the politicians who appointed them. Aplin gave $250,000 to Abbott’s campaign a month before his appointment in August. Ryan gave $100,000 to Dan Patrick through his Ryan Texas PAC, also a month before his appointment in July.
The increasing political influence on the electric utility regulator and grid operator and the increasing influence of money in Texas politics is stalling actions to prevent the next winter storm disaster to the state’s power grid.