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Texas governor orders natural gas producers not to export supply, blames city-owned utilities for power outages

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced new orders requiring state-regulated power utilities to implement rolling outages and natural gas providers not to export their product out-of-state in an effort to assuage a days-long power-and-water crisis during a press conference on Wednesday, the first one he has held since the outages began early Monday morning.


Austin Energy officials have repeatedly stressed that they are not yet able to implement rotating outages. "Currently, we are not stable enough to have rotating outages," General Manager Jackie Sargent said during a Wednesday press conference, adding that the utility cannot restore power to circuits without compromising those serving critical loads, such as hospitals and fire stations.

Abbott also asked state agencies to issue provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers and insurance adjusters.

Millions of Texans are without power and an increasing number are also without water, as freezing temperatures have caused water pipes and mains to burst. Abbott and other state officials have not said when residents can expect their power and water supply to resume but expressed hope that warming temperatures will lessen the crisis.

Abbott blamed city-owned and coop-owned utilities for the power outages. "It would not be any state-based entity that makes those decisions," he said, making no mention of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages about 90% of the state's power grid.

Austin Energy officials have stressed that they have been ordered by ERCOT to cut power to a certain number of customers to avoid a total grid shutdown, which could take months to restore. Abbott criticized the entity on Tuesday, when he announced ERCOT reform would be an emergency item this legislative session and later said that he thinks its leadership should resign.

Abbott faced criticism after he attributed the state's days-long power crisis to wind turbine failures and took a shot at renewable energy policies. "This shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America," the Republican governor told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Tuesday.

Although all of the state's energy sources have been impacted, ERCOT officials said the primary cause of the power outages have been weather-related failures of the state's natural gas providers. "Gas is failing in the most spectacular fashion right now," University of Texas at Austin energy resources professor Michael Webber told the Texas Tribune.

Another round of precipitation is forecasted across Texas Wednesday night, which will likely exacerbate icy roads and other transportation challenges.

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