Texas governor details plan to restore power as millions suffer through brutal winter storm

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday detailed his plans to restore power to millions of residents amid a brutal and deadly winter storm. Watch a portion of his remarks.

Video Transcript

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- We want to take you now to Austin, Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott is giving an update on the state's response to the deadly winter storm and the widespread power outages. Let's listen in.

GREG ABBOTT: --East Texas will continue to exist but also gradually move out over the next six hours. After that, another round of precipitation will be coming across the state over the next 24 hours. Most of that precipitation will be in the southern part of the state mostly around I-10 and south, maybe reaching as far north as the Austin area, probably not going much further north than the Austin area.

Cold temperatures will remain across much of the state for the next few days. Most of the state will be below freezing tomorrow morning. Along I-10 and north will remain freezing through Thursday night with ultra cold temperatures once again on Thursday night. We should across the state start getting above freezing on Saturday. Many transportation issues across the state on roadways in every region will remain challenging for the next few days.

Next is a report from the Public Utilities Commission with regard to power. Since midnight this past night, since 12:01 AM this morning, 6,000 megawatts have been added to the Texas grid. That equals about power for about 1.2 million households.

Several things have assisted in this. One of the power outages in the state was the nuclear plant project, the STNP South Texas Nuclear Plant project, as well as coal power generated power were shut down. The part of the additional-- let me say this right.

In addition to the 1.2 million households that have had power restored already, there will be additional onboarding that will be coming from the South Texas Nuclear Project which began operations early this morning and will complete operations tonight, and then additional operations will increase from coal-produced power that will add more than 2,000 megawatts, which will provide additional power for about 400,000 homes in addition to the 1.2 million that I was talking about earlier.

In addition to that, there are various small natural gas generators that are currently going on and off. They should sporadically add about 3,000 megawatts over the next 24 hours. And that would equate to about 600,000 homes.

As of this time, the-- there continues to be problems with natural gas-fired generators as well as wind generation. About 19,800 megawatts of gas power generation is still offline because of either mechanical issues or the lack of the supply of gas for those gas generators to produce power. 17,200 megawatts of renewable generated power remain out either because of freezing of the wind or because of lack of sun for the solar.

Some natural gas produced in Texas-- and this-- this is-- I'm about to tell you a way in which we will be adding more power to our system. Some natural gas produced in Texas is currently being shipped to locations outside of the state.

I have earlier today issued an order effective today through February the 21st requiring those producers that have been shipping to locations outside of Texas to instead sell that natural gas to Texas power generators that will also increase the power that's going to be produced and sent to homes here in Texas. That will increase the ability of gas-powered generators in Texas to increase power sent to the Texas power grid.

Through multiple phone calls and actions, the White House has assisted Texas with orders that allow additional power generation or have accelerated the nuclear plant restoration. Also, another issue that I would be coming to here shortly is talking to individuals across the state about spikes in the prices of natural gas.

There was a telephone conference between the president and several governors across the country in regions most harshly affected by the storms. And during that conversation, a point was raised about these spikes in natural gas prices that occur because of the unusual situation between demand and supply. And a request was made by one of the governors for assistance in dealing with those price anomalies. And the president said that he would work with the governors on trying to address that issue.

Let me address where we are with power outages and the way and the whys of how some of that works. Right now there still remains about 10,000 megawatts that is off the grid and as a result is not contributing to power in the state. People want to know how decisions are made about whose power is turned off and whose power is left on. And I want to let you know how that process works.

Decisions about power outages are made by either city-owned utilities or co-op-owned utilities. And it would not be any state-based entity that makes those decisions, except power outages by investor-owned utilities. Those are regulated by the Public Utilities Commission. Those include for the most part Encore, CenterPoint Energy, AEP, and Texas-New Mexico Power. And an order has been made to ensure that everybody that is subject to regulation by the PUC will have access to power on at least a rotating basis during the remaining time period until power is fully up and running.

I'll have some more information to cover. But I want to let you know a couple of topics that will be coming up that will be addressed by other people at the table. A broad category is the emergency response efforts to help Texans in need at this time. And that will be addressed by Chief Nim Kidd of the Texas Division of Emergency Management. Another is in many regions across Texas, there are increasing challenges with regard to water quality. They will be addressed by Toby Baker, the executive director for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

I want to address an issue that some Texans are already beginning to deal with but many Texans will be having to deal with here in the coming days that I want to make sure that we start discussing right now. And that is the results of busted pipes. Many people have already experienced busted pipes. And they've had their homes or apartments or other locations already filled up with water. So let's talk about what can be done and where we're going with it.

One thing that you want to do if you have a busted pipe or to prevent the consequences of a busted pipe is consider turning off your water supply. If you are a homeowner, there should be a location typically outside maybe near the curbside where you have the ability to physically turn off the water supply to your house. Obviously, that will eliminate water supply to your house. You can turn it off at the time of your choosing.

If you do not turn it off, one thing that could happen is that when power does come back onto your house or when-- just because the outside temperature begins to warm up, there will come a point in time when the ice frozen in your pipes will begin to melt. And the busted pipe will suddenly start spewing water throughout your house maybe in multiple locations. One way to slow down that water flooding into your house is by taking that action in advance to turn off your water.

We also urge all homeowners to as quickly as possible like as in beginning now if you haven't already done so begin to work with a plumber. Get plumbers lined up. And work with your insurance company in advance.

If you're a homeowner, you should have homeowner's insurance that would address this. Talk to your agent today, tonight, tomorrow, immediately. If you are a renter, most renters are required to have renters insurance. Talk to your rental insurance as well as your landlord immediately about what to do and how to address this.

If you live in a location that is not covered by insurance, you may have the possibility of getting assistance from FEMA. As you know, I requested a federal disaster declaration. And that was granted. One thing that comes along that is FEMA assistance. Part of that FEMA assistance goes to what's called public assistance that works on the rebuilding of large municipal and governmental-based facilities.

Another component would be individual assistance. In order to-- to qualify for individual assistance, there are certain dollar metrics that must be met before a location qualifies. So what we need homeowners to do is if you are without insurance if you live in a region where you may be covered by FEMA, we need everyone to keep receipts of any cost that you have incurred as a result of any type of repair to your property that's needed as a consequence of this winter storm.

Along these lines also, Texas law already authorizes the plumbing board to give provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers. And we are urging that that take place and also working with the board of plumbing examiners to make sure that that will happen with regard to that authorization.

We are also working to-- in fact, I am going to be issuing a waiver for plumbers. If they are previously licensed as a plumber but haven't completed continuing education in the last two years, you will be allowed to provide for plumbers a license to assist with those who have been affected by the winter storm. The goal, obviously, is we're trying to make sure that we will have as many plumbers available as possible to help everybody deal with their plumbing challenges.

Similarly and relatedly, Texas law also provides insurance adjusters out of state can get a temporary license to do adjusting for disaster claims. That's important because we do expect a lot of people in Texas to have disaster claims whether it be with your home because of damages that could occur to your home or to your rental property or because of a car accident, et cetera. And so we are urging the insurance businesses in Texas to bring in as many insurance adjusters from across the state as possible.

Also, I'll mention something that Chief Nim Kidd with the Texas Division of Emergency Management will expand upon shortly but that the Division of Emergency Management is already working with VOADs as well as faith-based organizations to help homeowners repair their homes. Many of you will recall this process for people who were affected by Hurricane Harvey. And we brought those same organizations in to help people muck out their homes and repair the homes. And the Texas Division of Emergency Management was involved in lining up all those people to assist in that repair process.

We are already beginning to line up those people. And so you may be wondering, well, how can you get a hold of somebody who can be connected with a VOAD or a faith-based organization who can assist you? And the answer is you can call your local office of emergency management organizations either with the county or city that you live in. Just depends on where you happen to reside.

One other thing on my part then I'll turn it-- turn over to-- to Nim Kidd. And Chief Kidd will also touch upon this a little bit. So the-- the primary component of the Texas military division is the National Guard. And we're very thankful to the National Guard and the role they played and continue to play in assisting the state and our people in responding to this winter storm.

The National Guard is assisting with regard to warming centers across the state that Chief Kidd will talk more about. They are also assisting with regard to roadways and providing air crews for a variety of different efforts to make sure that we are better able, as a state, to address this challenge.