Texas Governor Greg Abbott has failed Texans.
As he went on television last week to spread disinformation about a vital part of our economy that provides good jobs and clean energy, the death toll from the freeze and widespread blackout started to climb.
The Public Utility Commission, appointed by Gov. Abbott, failed to require companies to prepare for extreme weather that they were warned about a decade ago. The grid, narrowly avoiding a blackout that could have lasted months, failed.
And that failed us. At least 80 Texans have died.
But long before the freeze brought these failures out of the darkness, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality was failing to protect Texans from harmful air pollution. When Gov. Abbott suspended environmental regulations, polluters who released extra emissions during Hurricane Harvey failed once again to take steps to control them, despite the predictable equipment malfunctions and shutdowns.
And that failed Texans, who were exposed to 3.5 million unnecessary, avoidable pounds of toxic air pollution from chemical plants in Houston and Port Arthur, refineries in Corpus Christi and oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin.
But even on a clear day, Abbott’s TCEQ takes action only about 3 percent of the time when corporations illegally pollute our air. When they do, the fines are so low that it’s cheaper for the polluters to pay them than change the way they operate to avoid them.
And that fails Texans. Illegal air pollution leads to more than 40 early deaths and $250 million in economic damages here every year.
The polluters Abbott appointees don’t regulate don’t cover the costs of asthma and COPD. The companies Abbott appointees didn’t require to plan for extreme weather didn’t have to burn their children’s toys for warmth.
Neither pays for Texans’ funerals.
Gov. Abbott has to own the failures of these state agencies under his watch.