Photograph: Brett Coomer / AP
Texas Republicans will use federal funds to help pay the sky-high energy bills hitting ordinary Texans after a deep freeze crippled the state this week, a congressman said on Sunday.
Related: Texans rally to help neighbors in big freeze as officials are caught off guard
Millions of Texans were subjected to power outages as cold weather overwhelmed an unprepared state grid, regardless of federal oversight. The blackouts contributed to dozens of deaths and a crisis in access to drinking water that continued despite rising temperatures.
President Joe Biden declared a major disaster on Saturday, freeing up funds to help. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday told ABC this week the president was “eager to go to Texas and show his support.” But she also said Biden was “very aware that it is not a light footprint for a president to go to a disaster area” and “does not want to deprive of resources or attention.”
Reports have mushroomed that some Texans whose power has remained are now facing huge bills as private companies seek to capitalize. The New York Times reported a case in which a 63-year-old Social Security veteran in suburban Dallas was facing an electricity bill of nearly $ 17,000, 70 times what he would usually pay for everyone combined utilities.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Scott Willoughby told the newspaper, “but it broke me.”
Texas Republican Michael McCaul, former chairman of the House Homeland Security committee, spoke to CNN’s State of the Union.
“The current plans with the Federal Aid Bill are to help homeowners fix it because we have a lot of water leaks, a lot of water damaged pipes bursting, but also [pay] their electricity bills too, ”he said.
Host Dana Bash challenged him saying, “I hear you say the federal government is going to help bail out and pay the bills in a state that is partly in this mess because it wants to be separated from the federal government.” . government. It’s rather rich, don’t you think?
McCaul dodged the question, saying Texas needs to prepare for more extreme weather events instead. The deep freeze, he said, was “just a glimpse of what to expect if the United States doesn’t tackle the climate crisis head-on.”
The disaster declaration released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or Fema, applied to 77 of Texas’ 254 counties, leading Governor Greg Abbott to say it should cover the entire state.
Paski said, “What is happening here is that the governor has requested a federal disaster declaration. The president asked his team to speed this up. And Fema has determined where … they should focus the immediate resources, where the hardest hit counties are so they can make sure they’re reaching the people who need them most.
“It means not only helping people get through this emergency, but also helping people get through the recovery, the people who have no water, who have no heating, who need a place to stay. stay awhile is what this declaration of major disaster will help resolve, or is our hope.
McCaul was asked about remarks in which former Texas Governor and US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry said: “Texans would be without power for more than three days to prevent the federal government from embarking on their plans. business.”
McCaul said, “Electricity sharing would have been helpful if we could have shared with other power grids.” That couldn’t happen, he said, because the Texas network “was set up… to be independent from federal oversight and regulations. That’s great with things like cybersecurity, not so great when it comes to an arctic blast like this.
“In 2011, the state legislature, after we had a really bad freeze, released a bipartisan report with recommendations to energy companies on how to winterize our operations.”
These recommendations were not followed.
Related: 11-year-old boy dies in frozen mobile home as death toll rises in Texas
“So when this happened, our entire energy system was not winterized for subzero temperatures,” McCaul said. “That’s what we’re going to look at, these recommendations that were made in 2011.”
McCaul was also asked about efforts by prominent Democrats, including Beto O’Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the first from El Paso but the second from New York, to help ordinary Texans. Such actions contrasted with the behavior of Republicans, including Sen. Ted Cruz, who flew to Mexico with his family rather than stay in his Houston home, a decision for which he was pilloried.
“I think we also need to help,” McCaul said, “and we will with the federal declaration of emergency we received from the president. But I think it’s great that they are crossing party lines to help Americans first and not just Republicans or Democrats.
“… I know some people get hot. Like, when a crisis hits my condition, I’m there. I’m not going on vacation. I know Mr. Cruz calls this a mistake and he admitted it. But I think it was a big mistake.