While North Texas has climatically recovered from the historic snow storm that occurred last week, residents are continuing to feel its ripple effects. Some are still living without power, others are left with exorbitant utility bills and residents facing food insecurity have had to skip work and stay home.
As his constituents continue to heal from this devastating blow and demand answers, Congressman Van Taylor – a Plano Republican whose district also covers Frisco, Allen and Prosper – is encouraging people to wait for the information to come in before arriving at conclusions.
“We really don’t know all the facts at this point,” he said. “We faced an unprecedented storm, and there’s no doubt we needed to do a better job preparing for it. The power outages were absolutely unacceptable, and I was really unhappy with the poor level of communications after the power outages, and I worked very hard to try to improve that communication by letting my constituents know what’s going on. I think that we need to figure out what happened and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Much of this information is pending an investigation of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) by the Texas State Legislature, but some feel that the crisis warrants an investigation from Congress. Rep. Joaquin Castro called for both federal and state investigations in an interview with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, and a similar sentiment was echoed by Lizzie Fletcher, another Texas Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
But what authority, if any, does Congress have to investigate Texas’s autonomous power grid?
“I think there will be hearings at the House Energy and Commerce Committee[s], but at the end of the day, Texas has its own power grid, and the [State] Legislature is ultimately in control of that,” Taylor said. “And again, we just don’t know [all the details] at this point … I have no doubt the legislature will get to the bottom of that and figure it out.”
Still, Taylor and Castro both signed a joint letter on Monday urging President Joe Biden to immediately authorize federal disaster relief for all 254 counties in Texas. Biden approved such a measure on Friday for 77 counties including Collin, Denton and Dallas, but adjacent counties such as Grayson and Fannin were excluded. Under this declaration, residents of participating counties can receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans for uninsured property losses and resources for business owners impacted by the storm.
Taylor has also used his platform to distribute information to his constituents. In recent tweets, for example, he has been informing Plano residents of free shower services offered by the city and ways people in Collin County can file insurance claims.
As seriously as Taylor has taken this responsibility, he expressed frustration about the communication coming from ERCOT. “ERCOT should be selling [information], and I should be turning around and repeating it. Not me figuring it out and selling it [for them],” he said.
Taylor also encouraged constituents to contact his office via phone or email for assistance.
“If we can help you, please reach out,” he said. “If you’re having problems with FEMA, if you’re having problems with the SBA, we’re here to help, and if we can’t help you, we’ll get you in touch with the people that can. There are a lot of efforts to try and help people, and this has been an unacceptable burden on the people of Texas.”