Dallas official says White House called him about storm before Texas governor did

Chief Executive of Dallas County says ‘the governor made a conscious choice’ not to prepare for current crisis, and was still to reach out on Thursday as thousands remained without power

Gino Spocchia
Thursday 18 February 2021 19:35 GMT
Beto O'Rourke calls Texas a 'nearly failed state' over power outages
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The leader of the city of Dallas says the White House called him during this week’s winter storm, but not Texas governor Greg Abbott.

Judge Clay Jenkins, the chief executive of Dallas County, told MSNBC on Thursday morning that Joe Biden’s administration was assisting with his city’s response to the record breaking winter storm Uri this week.

But Texas’s Republican governor — who has been called on to step down amid the crisis — had not called, Judge Jenkins told MSNBC host Hallie Jackson.

The admission comes as more than 70,000 Dallas residents were said to be still without power on Thursday, with as many as 500,000 across Texas still affected by a four-day power blackout.

"I haven't heard from the governor. I haven't heard from any of the state leaders,” said Judge Jenkins, “[but] we have heard from the White House and we're very thankful.”

The Dallas official said water supplies were still running “because the Biden administration and FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) sent us generators,” which were used to power the city’s water treatment plants.

“We can't do everything but everyone in public service can do like the people of Texas are doing now, helping each other,” Judge Jenkins said, in what appeared as criticism of Mr Abbott.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Abbott blamed the state’s main energy supplier, ERCOT, who could not provide details about when power outages would stop.

"ERCOT has not provided information about which location and which geographic location the additional power is coming onto or is not coming on to," said Mr Abbott, who claimed on Fox News that renewable energy was to blame, despite accounting for only 10 per cent of Texas’s supply.

And with many Texas still without power, heating or water, Judge Jenkins added on Thursday that the governor avoided weatherisation measures and regulations on ERCOT, an independent provider separate to the country’s power supply, and called for immediate measures to be put into place.

"We've been warning the governor about this since 2011 when it was nearly this bad around the Super Bowl,” said Judge Jenkins. “You may remember the ice storm. There was a federal report that said if you don't winterize it will happen again. There was a state report saying the same thing.”

Weatherisation, as the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states, includes “installing insulation, reducing air infiltration and pressure imbalances, sealing and repairing ducts, and tuning and repairing heating and cooling units,” among preventative measures.

“The governor made a conscious choice not to do that,” continued Judge Jenkins. “When you're in a regulated market and you tell companies to do something it's the same as telling them not to because they only get their energy bought if they're at the lowest cost. It was completely predictable.”

On Twitter, the chief executive repeated demands on Mr Abbott to apologise for his handling of the crisis, and called for immediate winter and financial assistance for Texans.

“Governor Abbott please apologise to Texans who lost power and immediately order your team at the Public Utility Commission of Texas to pass weatherization requirements like Oklahoma and the other states,” wrote Judge Jenkins on Twitter.

“You chose not to do it before. Please do it now.”

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