Texas governor blocks power companies from disconnecting service over nonpayment

    In addition to the crisis of skyrocketing electric bills, Texas is also facing two other immediate crises: food shortages and lack of access to clean water.

    Texas Governor Greg Abbott says the Texas public utilties commission held an emergency meeting Sunday to issue a moratorium on customer disconnections for non-payments.

    “We will not end this session until ERCOT is fully winterized so we do not go through this again,” Abbott said, according to the Dallas Morning News, referring to power grid operator the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

    He says that he is also working with members of the legislature to address skyrocketing energy bills and “find ways that the state can help reduce this burden.”

    “Our absolute top priority as a commission and a state is protecting electricity customers from the devastating effects of a storm that already affected their delivery of power,” commission Chair DeAnn Walker said in a statement. “The order and directives are intended to be temporary, likely through the end of this week, to address the potential financial impacts that are especially challenging during this extremely difficult time.”

    ERCOT, which manages the grid that provides power to the vast majority of the state, is back online after days of rolling blackouts following the devastating winter storm and record cold snap in the Lone Star State. 

    The disaster has reportedly caused multiple deaths and led wholesale energy prices to more than quadruple in some cases. 

    NBC News reported one man received an energy bill for more than $17,000 for a house he owns last week despite lights and other utilities at the property being turned off. 

    President Joe Biden late last week signed a partial emergency disaster declaration for the state, freeing up federal funding to help people affected by the crisis. 

    Abbott said Sunday that he is suspending regulations on trucking to get drivers on the road to deliver food to grocery stores quickly. He also suspended regulations on kitchens to prepare food as long as they comply with state health guidelines.

    Abbott is also brining in plumbers as residents try to deal with broken pipes. He urged anyone with issues to call for a plumber as soon as possible, as well as call the insurance companies.

    In addition to the triple immediate crises, Abbott said that from now on, Texas will winterize all sources of energy. 

    "We should never run short of power again," Abbott said. "Texas is the energy state, we need to make sure that we translate that into power generation to make sure the power stays on."

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