Texas is putting together a phone bank to help water companies connect with larger labs on water quality issues. Governor Greg Abbott says the phone bank will hopefully get water quality testing finished a lot quicker while also mentioning a team-up with Arkansas to get water tested. He also says the plumbing board is working with out-of-state plumbers to help get pipes fixed and noted hundreds of plumbers have renewed their licenses. Water issues have been plaguing the state after power outages from freezing temperatures.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is confident a federal disaster declaration will be approved soon. The governor says he had a conversation with President Biden last night on the issue along with a USDA disaster request for farmers. Abbott also says local power companies are working as fast as possible to get localized outages repaired. He promised to have been in contact with local leaders on a regular basis on power issues. Texas suffered widespread power outages this week after two winter storms hit. The Electrical Reliability Council of Texas says the outages were needed to keep catastrophic power grid failures from happening.
The Governor laid out four immediate priorities for the State of Texas, as well as what the state is doing to restore power and water and ensure that food and fuel demands are met throughout Texas.
The first immediate priority is continuing to restore power to Texas homes. While there are no longer any residential power outages due to lack of power generation, there are still some Texans without power due to downed lines or the need for manual reconnection. The Governor assured Texans without power that local providers are working diligently to restore electricity.
The second priority is supporting local officials as they work to restore water for Texans. Today, the Governor issued waivers to cut red tape to accelerate this process. The Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ), as of 5 PM today, is standing up a phone bank for local water utilities who are unable to get water testing at their contracted labs. This phone bank will connect local facilities with another lab that can test their water quickly. TCEQ has partnered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stand up three mobile water testing labs. In addition, the state is partnering with local river authorities to use their water labs to assist locals with bacteria sampling. Texas has also partnered with the state of Arkansas to use their labs. Additionally, TCEQ is coordinating with larger local labs that have testing availability to assist smaller municipalities. The Governor noted that he held a call earlier today with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) to discuss ways to quickly repair burst pipes for Texans across the state. As of noon today, over 320 plumbers have renewed their license, and TSBPE is coordinating with multiple out-of-state plumbing companies to send additional plumbers to Texas. The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) is continuing to deliver bottled water to communities facing water shortages or water quality issues. Over 1.7 million bottles of water have been delivered to communities across the state.
The third priority is ensuring Texans have the food and supplies they need. The Governor noted that he has already suspended some regulations relating to commercial vehicles, which will speed the delivery of food and other resources to communities across the state. The State is taking steps to open new fuel supply lines to ensure truckers, agriculture producers, emergency responders, and anyone else that runs on diesel will be able to get food to stores and supplies to Texans in need. The Governor announced that he is allowing the use of off-road road diesel on Texas roads. Governor Abbott and Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar are requesting fuel waivers from the EPA and the IRS to allow for the use of all forms of diesel on Texas roads to keep our truckers moving. As roads conditions continue to improve, more food and supplies will be delivered to grocery stores across the state.
The fourth priority is helping refineries get back up and running to provide Texans with the fuel they need. In addition to fuel regulation suspensions previously mentioned, the Governor spoke with oil and gas refineries earlier today to work on strategies to get their operations up and running again.
"Thanks to the efforts of linemen, plumbers, first responders, truckers, farmers, ranchers, grocery store workers, refinery workers, and more, we continue to make tremendous strides to overcome the challenges of the past week," said Governor Abbott. "We know that this past week has been challenging for far too many Texans. Our state agencies are working around the clock to restore power and water, and to ensure Texans have food and supplies. I want to reassure the people of Texas that we are using every tool at our disposal to help those in need. We have overcome challenges in the past, and we will overcome this challenge together."
Photo: Volunteers load cases of water into the bed of a truck during a mass water distribution at Delmar Stadium on in Houston (Getty Images)