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Days before Texans lost power, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas assured state leaders that they were "ready for the cold temperatures coming our way," Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference to discuss statewide response to the aftermath of the winter storm. However, negligence and ill-preparedness on behalf of ERCOT left millions in the dark for days, not knowing when—or if—it would return, and the governor is taking action.
As electricity restoration has reached nearly 100%, ERCOT, which maintains about 90% of the state's electric grid, is no longer mandating controlled outages and those still left without power are likely facing a local issue, like a downed power line.
Abbott said the state received a notice and an assessment from ERCOT explicitly stating power plants were winterized properly and there would definitely be enough power to match the storm. Abbott said ERCOT's failure to meet demands is what triggered his order to launch an investigation on the nonprofit.
"ERCOT fell short on all ... promises they made, which is exactly why I have ordered the state legislature to investigate exactly why ERCOT fell short here and to make sure this never happens again," Abbott said. "We know that you folks at home have faced struggles by going without power. We want to make sure that whatever happened in ERCOT falling short never happens again."
After five days of Austinites and other Texans alike struggling to meet basic needs—electricity, water, food and heat—Abbott laid out a recovery plan to get the state back on its feet.
With millions of dollars in projected damage, Abbott said President Joe Biden told him he would approve the major disaster declaration the state submitted last night. Once the declaration is approved, it will allow Texans to request funding to help cover damages not covered by private insurance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"We cannot emphasize this enough about homeowners and renters being prepared to deal with the consequences of busted water pipes," Abbott said. "The major disaster declaration, when approved by the Biden administration, will assist this process."
Abbott encouraged homeowners to get in touch with insurance providers as soon as possible to mitigate damage. The city plans to launch a damage survey tool so residents can report issues.
Abbott said 10,000-20,000 electric restorations are made each hour; from 4.5 million down to about 165,000 homes still without power across the state, the biggest problems Texas now faces are restoring water, repairing damages and getting residents access to food.
Now with more than 14 million Texans affected by the water crisis, Abbott said the state has partnered with mobile testing labs and testing labs in Arkansas to tackle water purity. Since plumbers are in very high demand, the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners is coordinating with out-of-state agencies to bring more plumbers to the state.
"There will be great demand for plumbers today, tomorrow, this weekend and in the coming days," Abbott said. "We want to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to help you gain access to the plumbers that you need to solve your plumbing and leakage problems."
Food and water are still being delivered to Texas and has so far received more than 1.7 million bottles of water. An additional 331 warming centers have opened, ambulances are being imported in-state and Abbott said with roads improving, resources like gasoline and food will start to be delivered much quicker.
"We brought in all of these additional resources to make sure that the turnaround will be quicker," Abbott said. "I want to reassure you, that we're using every single tool at our disposal to make sure that your needs are going to be met."
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Matthew McConaughey is reportedly weighing a run for Texas governor in 2022.
The Austin resident and Oscar winner has been "quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO" as he decides whether to run, according to Politico.
McConaughey said a gubernatorial run is "a true consideration" while on a March episode of Houston's "The Balanced Voice" podcast.
Although most political strategists doubt McConaughey's commitment and viability as a candidate, some are still intrigued by the possibility.
"I find it improbable, but it's not out of the question," Karl Rove, a top Republican strategist with a long history in Austin, told the political news site. He added that the big question is whether McConaughey would run as a Republican, a Democrat or an independent.
Brendan Steinhauser, an Austin-based GOP strategist, told Politico he's surprised McConaughey isn't being taken more seriously. "Celebrity in this country counts for a lot," he said. "It's not like some C-list actor no one likes. He has an appeal."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to run for a third term and remains popular among Republican voters, 77% of whom approve of his performance as of April, according to the Texas Politics Project.
Some strategists believe an independent McConaughey run would benefit Abbott. But a recent poll from The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found that McConaughey would beat Abbott, 45% to 33%, with 22% opting for someone else.
Mimi Swartz, an executive editor at Texas Monthly, mulled a McConaughey run in a recent opinion essay from the New York Times. "Texas may not be ready for a philosopher king as a candidate, much less governor," she wrote. "May the best man win, man."
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Some JuiceLand production facility workers and storefront employees are organizing to demand wage increases, better working conditions (including air conditioning in the warehouse) and pay transparency, among other asks. They are also calling on staff to strike and customers to boycott the Austin-based company until their demands are met.
JuiceLand responded on Saturday. "We are listening," the company wrote on their Instagram story. "JuiceLand crew now makes guaranteed $15 an hour or more companywide."
JuiceLand, which was founded in 2001 by Matt Shook and now has 35 locations in Austin, Houston and Dallas, acknowledged the rising cost of living across Texas and the added stress of the pandemic in an email to employees on Saturday, part of which @juicelandworkersrights shared on social media. "There's no denying that times are tough and financial security means more now than ever," the company wrote.
Organized JuiceLand workers rejected this proposal, according to a recent post on the @juicelandworkersrights Instagram account, and reiterated their demands.
"Cost of living in Austin is rising exponentially and will only continue to get worse with the tech boom," the post read. "$15 is barely a sustainable living."