KETK Kaci Koviak

August 5, 2020

Did you know Texas electric companies aren’t required to report their power line safety inspections to the state?
Did you know it’s the burden of the public to report low-hanging power lines to the operating utility company?
Did you know there is no way to find accurate public data about injuries and deaths caused by power lines in Texas?
That is, until HB 4150 was signed into law 13 months ago by Governor Greg Abbott.
Today might be somewhat of an ordinary summer day for many of you.
But for the families of these three boy scouts, today is a day no words could ever accurately describe.
Three years ago today, these boys were electrocuted during a scouting retreat at Lake O’ the Pines.
They were sailing when the mast of their boat came in contact with a high-voltage transmission line, sagging above the lake.
Their names are Will Brannon, Thomas Larry and Heath Faucheux.
And thanks to a new law, Texas will never forget.
A few months after the tragedy, the parents said they realized their sons’ deaths were 100% preventable.
They also discovered that 35 years earlier, a man was electrocuted on his sailboat, from the exact same transmission line.
How could something this horrific happen TWICE?
From that moment forward, the parents redirected their grief and anger into creating change in Austin.
“The biggest thing we can do for our boys, is to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, and the only way to make that happen, is to remove the root cause,” said Stan Brannon, Will’s Father.
The root cause was a lack of government oversight.
Their legislative journey was full of ups and downs as they fought to change the powerful utility industry, pushing for transparency and accountability.
With the unwavering support of their local lawmaker, Marshall State Rep. Chris Paddie, on June 14, 2019, Gov. Abbott signed the “William Thomas Heath Power Line Safety Act” into law.
“It shines a light on how these power companies are conducting their business. They’re now required to openly show what their level of commitment is to public safety. It’s something that hopefully prevents these types of tragedies from happening in the future.” said Rep. Paddie.
In Austin, I’ve noticed that the majority of bills that make it to the Governor’s desk don’t have much of a backstory.
But that’s certainly not the case with a law appropriately named the “WTH” Act.
Longview State Rep. Jay Dean also threw his weight behind the bill, saying this:
“It’s extremely unfortunate that sometimes the best laws are born out of tragedy.”
Every time a person is injured, or a life is taken at the hands of a utility’s non-compliant power line, there they’ll be. WTH.
William. Thomas. Heath.
“These boys were going to rule the world one day! We had such high hopes for all three of them,” said Michelle Feaucheux, Heath’s mother.
But instead of the boys ruling the world, their legacy is now ruling the law of Texas power companies.
Legislation that will ultimately save lives.
But it’s legislation that should have been there for them, too.
What. The. Hell.