President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration for Texas after a brutal cold snap and frozen infrastructure caused days of power and water shortages for residents across the state.
The White House announced Saturday that the president also ordered federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts to help those affected. Types of assistance include temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.
This comes after Gov. Greg Abbott requested the statement and assistance on Thursday. The Texas governor said in a statement that Biden’s action only « partially » helps people in the state, as Biden had only approved « individual assistance » for 77 counties instead of the 254 counties requested by Abbott.
However, Biden’s declaration provides federal funding on a « public assistance » basis, which is through emergency protective measures, in all 254 counties.
« I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to the impacts of winter weather on our state, » Abbott said in his statement.
“While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure that all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need. The funds provided under the Major Disaster Declaration can provide crucial assistance to Texans as they begin to repair their homes and address property damage.
Texas has a generating capacity of approximately 67,000 megawatts in the winter compared to a maximum capacity of approximately 86,000 megawatts in the summer. The gap between winter and summer supply reflects power plants shutting down for maintenance during months when demand is typically less intense and there is not as much energy coming from wind and solar sources.
But planning this winter did not account for temperatures cold enough to freeze natural gas supply lines and prevent wind turbines from spinning. As of Feb. 17, 46,000 megawatts of power were off statewide: 28,000 from natural gas, coal and nuclear plants and 18,000 from wind and solar power, according to the Texas Electric Reliability Council, which operates the electricity grid of the condition. Over the last decade, the energy generated by wind has gradually increased to outpace the energy generated by coal.
The storms caused ongoing blackouts across the state that left more than 4 million Texans without power. Meanwhile, the lack of power at the water treatment facilities led to a boil water advisory for about 7 million Texans.
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The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the Lone Star state’s electrical system, said Feb. 20 that « operations are back to normal » and that they are « no longer calling for energy conservation. »
Bill Magness, ERCOT President and CEO, said in a conference call on Friday that “We have just received notice from our control room that we have left the last stage of emergency operations, so we have fully returned to normal operations ”.
Around 6:24 p.m. Saturday, the Texas power grid was operating at a capacity of about 60,000 megawatts, plus an operating reserve of 7,572 megawatts, according to ERCOT panels. At the same time, the demand was 36,636 megawatts.
Jason Isaac, former state representative and current director of Life: Powered, a project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told The Epoch Times « American Thought Leaders » that the energy crisis has prompted the need for reform, in In particular, better development of winterizing measures and improved management.
“There is some preparation for winter that is needed. And that will certainly happen, that will happen, ”he said. « Absolutely, when these power plants go offline and not being used, you have parts that don’t move and those parts will freeze. »
Isaac said that while specific reform is necessary to improve the grid’s readiness for future events, he expressed disapproval of a federal integration of the Texas electrical system.
« We are an independent state and we like our independence from Texas, » he said. « And the last thing we want to do is have our network controlled by any kind of federal regulatory agency or the federal government, » he added.
The Associated Press and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.