TEXAS- Just in the nick of time, right Biden? Days after significant winter storms and sub-freezing temperatures crippled the state of Texas, Joe Biden finally declared at least part of the state a disaster area on Saturday, according to National Review.
The storm and related frigid temperatures disrupted electric service throughout much of the state, and while much of that has been restored, Texas residents are now dealing with a shortage of potable water.
In cities such as Houston, Austin, San Antonio and others are being told to boil water, while 1,180 public water systems across 160 counties in the state reported service disruptions as of Friday morning, according to The Texas Tribune.
The announcement from the White House said that Biden ordered federal assistance to supplement local and state recovery efforts. Assistance will include temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs designed to help individuals and business owners recover from the aftermath of the deep freeze.
On Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott requested a disaster declaration and federal assistance, after days had passed with no disaster response from Biden. Abbott noted that while he had requested assistance for 254 counties in the Lone Star State, Biden only approved “individual assistance’ for 77 counties.
Biden’s order does however provide federal funding on the grounds of “public assistance.”
“I thank President Biden for his assistance as we respond to impacts of winter weather across our state,” Abbott said in a statement.
“While this partial approval is an important first step, Texas will continue to work with our federal partners to ensure all eligible Texans have access to the relief they need. The funds provided under the Major Disaster Declaration may provide crucial assistance to Texans as they begin to repair their homes and address property damage.”
The Epoch Times reported that part of the reason for the electricity problems was that Texas’ generating capacity is reduced in the winter, from a capacity of around 86,000 megawatts in the summer down to 67,000 megawatts in the winter.
The reason for the gap is power plants tend to go offline during the winter months when demand is lower is due to scheduled maintenance.
However Texas dealt with something that couldn’t be anticipated…temperatures cold enough to freeze natural gas supply lines and stop wind turbines from turning.
On Feb. 17, over 46,000 megawatts of power was removed from the power grid in Texas—28,000 from natural gas, coal and nuclear plants and 18,000 from wind and solar, according to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.
The ERCOT noted that over the past ten years or so, wind-generated power has gradually overtaken coal-generated power in Texas.
Rolling blackouts enacted due to the frigid weather and winter storms left more than 4 million residents of the state without power.
As of February 20, the ERCOT said that “operations have returned to normal” in Texas and they were “no longer asking for energy conservation.”
On a Friday conference call, Bill Magness, ERCOT president and CEO said, “We just got the notice form our control room that we have left the last stage of emergency operations, so we are completely back to normal operations.”
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At 6:24 p.m. Saturday night, the power grid was operating at a capacity of around 60,000 megawatts, plus an operating reserve of 7.572 megawatts, according the ERCOT’s dashboards, with demand only running just over 36,600 megawatts.
The Epoch Times was told by Jason Isaac, former state representative and current director of a power-oriented project of the Texas Public Policy Foundation that the power crisis showed the need for reform, and in particular the need for better winterization measures and improved management.
“There is some winterization that’s needed. And that’ll certainly take place, that will happen,” Isaac said. “Absolutely, when these power plants were tripped offline, and not being utilized, you have parts that aren’t moving, and those parts will freeze up.”
While Isaac acknowledged the need for some reform, he was unenthusiastic about any possible federal integration of the state’s power system.
“We’re an independent state and we like our Texas independence,” he said.
“And the last thing we want to do is have our grid controlled by any kind of federal regulatory agency or the federal government,” he added.
Biden, who traveled out of Washington, DC twice last week but couldn’t take the time (or probably expend the energy) to go to Texas said he would go there as soon as possible but claimed he didn’t want his visit to “create logistical hurdles” for responders on the ground.
It is estimated that the storm and related power outages could cause over $18 billion in damage, according to Karen Clark & CO., a catastrophe-modeling firm.
“This event has snow and ice, but it is predominantly a freezing event and most of the claims are going to be related to water damage,” Clark told The Wall Street Journal.
Much of that damage is caused by water pipes that have frozen and burst in buildings across the state.
In explaining the decision to only declare disasters in 77 out of 254 counties in the state, White House press secretary Jen Psaki claimed that the declaration was intended to focus on the “hardest hit” parts of the state, according to the Dallas Morning News.
Sunday, appearing on ABC’s This Week, Psaki said:
“The governor requested a federal disaster declaration, the president asked his team to expedite that and FEMA determined where the counties should be, where it should focus the immediate resources, where the counties that are hardest hit, so that they can make sure they get the people in most need.”
Psaki didn’t indicate if Biden would “circle back” for possible additional aid.
When the aid was announced Saturday, no explanation was given either by the White House or FEMA as to why the designation was limited to only 77 counties.
Texas state officials are in the process of collecting damage reports from all counties throughout the state in order to gain approval for addition the rest of the state to the disaster declaration.
“We do want all 254 counties added,” Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said at a Saturday afternoon press conference.
“What we will have to do is to get information from all 254 counties to show damages. We will have to show county by county, dollar by dollar. I don’t think we will have a county that doesn’t meet this threshold.”
On Friday, Texas Senators John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R) wrote Biden urging him to approve the disaster declaration for the entire state, saying they wanted aid “for all 254 Texas counties as a result of severe winter weather that began on February 11, 2021″.
“We urge you to grant this request to secure the health and safety of all Texans affected by this disaster.”
In addition, 18 of 23 Texas Republicans in the House also wrote a letter urging Biden to approve the disaster request.
As an example of losses incurred in the state, citrus producers have lost roughly $305 million dollars in the state, according to estimates by Texas Citrus Mutual.
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