In his second televised press conference this week in the wake of severe winter weather that has disrupted Texas's electric grid, supply chains and some water utility services, Abbott provided updates on the state's ongoing emergency efforts and plans to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
"Everyone knows how challenging the past few days have been for our fellow Texans. I want everyone to know that all of us in the state of Texas believe it is completely unacceptable that you had to endure one minute of the challenge that you faced," Abbott said. "All of us agree on the necessity of action, not just the action taken to restore your power, but the action to ensure that you never have to endure anything like this ever again."
Power restoration, improvements
Abbott said power has now been restored to nearly 2 million homes since his Feb. 17 press conference. Localized power system failures, rather than the larger generation issues responsible for this week's widespread blackouts, are to blame for continuing outages affecting approximately 325,000 Texans, Abbott said. And while the state is not responsible for problems such as downed power lines or individual connection issues, he said power companies have informed him every available repair truck is now working to resolve those issues.
"We hope and anticipate no location will be without power tonight. The good news is we are starting the evening with every residence in the state of Texas not lacking the generation of power," he said. "Texas agencies will continue to work around the clock with our local partners, with the residential areas, with industrial and commercial users, until power is restored to every single location across the state.”
Abbott also criticized the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, for its role in this week's power crisis. While Abbott and other state lawmakers have already called for investigations into the electric grid management this week, the governor said Feb. 18 that he wants the state Legislature to further investigate ERCOT's management—and its inclusion of nonresident board members—as well as the scope of the company's warnings to power generators earlier this month and the truthfulness of ERCOT's claims about the power grid status this week.
“We’ve got two things to look at: Is it true that ERCOT was on the verge of losing access to power in the grid, which could have caused a long-term blackout in the state of Texas?" Abbott said. "If it’s not true, then there are serious consequences because of that. If it is true, there is serious action that needs to be taken by the state of Texas."
Abbott also said he will add more emergency items for the Texas Legislature to consider, including the mandating and funding of winterization updates to the Texas power system. Abbott said he has already discussed those items with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, House Speaker Dave Phelan and relevant legislative committee chairs.
Water system issues, including a lack of safe drinking water prompting boil-water notices throughout Texas, have also become priorities for the state's disaster response this week, officials said.
Abbott said he is considering new executive orders that could help speed the distribution of clean water to Texans in need, while officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are also evaluating how best to address these water challenges.
W. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, urged continued water conservation as possible while his office works with partners to restore service for residents, and industrial and agricultural customers.
"The place we are right now with almost every single water institution impacted, not only from the frozen lines in our homes, but the frozen lines in the streets that are running institutional water, water will continue to be a challenge," Kidd said. "We need to continue to conserve water, we need to be careful with the use of water, and together we’ll get through the water challenges.”
In addition to drinking water issues, Abbott also said he submitted a request for a major disaster declaration in the state from President Joe Biden. If granted, it will allow Texans whose property has been damaged due to burst water pipes to apply for individual assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency when not covered by private insurance, he said.
Officials also highlighted the lack of food many Texans may still be facing. Improving road conditions are expected to help supplies reach restaurants and grocery stores over the next day, Abbott said, and the state is also working with local food banks and state-based agencies to provide food to those in need.
For anyone wishing to contribute resources to food supply efforts, Abbott also highlighted the Feeding Texas organization and American Red Cross as entities to work with or donate to.
"We’re going to keep pushing food into this state. I ask, though, that we not hoard food. This is going to get to the point where you take what we need, and we will work through this together," Kidd said.
Officials also said more than 300 warming centers remain open in Texas, and more are expected to be brought online this week. Warming center locations may be found at www.tdem.texas.gov/warm.