A major disaster declaration for Texas was approved by President Biden on Saturday, making available a broader variety of federal aid to support those impacted by the extreme winter storm.
After extreme winter storms that pummelling the South this week, Biden had already approved emergency states in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, killing hundreds of people and initially leaving millions without electricity, heat or drinking water.
The declaration by Biden allows Texas individuals and business owners to qualify for federal emergency assistance, including temporary housing and home repair grants, low-cost loans to cover losses of uninsured land, and other recovery services. Texas has also been provided with pumps, drinking water, food and other supplies by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
As the state awoke to temperatures in the 20s, about 80,000 electric utility customers in Texas remained in the dark and without heat Saturday morning. As of Friday night, more than 14 million people in 160 counties were already suffering water supply shortages, and the consequences of the week’s Arctic cold blast spread to Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee and beyond.
As Texas continues its recovery from the collapse of its power system, focus turns to whether it should have prevented a catastrophe of this magnitude and who is to blame for the emergency. Next week, Congress is likely to launch an investigation into what went wrong in Texas, and it is expected that the state legislature will hold its own hearings.
Complaints, too, land in court dockets. One complaint alleges that for decades, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas ignored safety alerts. In the suit that ERCOT and American Electric Power of Ohio, which operates generators in Texas, failed to prepare for bad weather and generate enough electricity, resident Donald McCarley argues that the Dallas Morning news Reported.
At least one other case linked to the power outages has been filed, court records show. Neither ERCOT nor the Ohio energy company responded immediately to Saturday’s requests for comment.
It is up to the Texas Public Utility Commission, which regulates ERCOT, to require that suppliers must plan for severe cold and prosecute those who chose not to do so, independent authorities said. Experts said that without such expenses, the power suppliers will continue to ignore preparations, with predictable consequences.