SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Sunday that the Texas Public Utilities Commission is ordering a moratorium for energy companies to ban electricity disconnections due to non-payment as many Texans face high electricity bills after a week of sub-freezing temperatures.
Abbott made the announcement during a briefing at Port San Antonio on the efforts to get water and other supplies to communities across the state following a massive winter storm that prompted days-long power outages.
Abbott, speaking while flanked by other state and local leaders, said roughly 13,000 Texans still did not have power due to issues with local power providers. At its height, more than 4.5 million customers were without electricity.
He said power should be fully restored across the state Sunday night or Monday.
Abbott also said food supply shortages at grocery stores would soon be resolved, now that road conditions are safe for deliveries. Abbott said he suspended state regulations to get more delivery trucks on roads to help deliver food and supplies at a faster rate.
"There are so many Texans — too many Texans — that have gone hungry over the past few days," he said. Abbott also said he had also suspended regulations to allow kitchens to prepare more meals as long as they follow Texas Department of State Health Services guidelines on food safety.
One issue still facing the state, Abbott said, is water quality as millions of people are still under boil notices or do not have access to running water.
Toby Baker, executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, said nearly 15 million residents were on a boil water notice 48 hours ago — and that since then about 5 million Texans had come off of such notices. Officials in the city of Houston, for example, announced Sunday afternoon that the city's tap water was safe again to use for drinking, cooking and making ice. Houston's boil notice had been in place since Wednesday.
During the briefing, Abbott also said he and other leaders were working overtime to address the steep electricity bills that some Texans had received.
Abbott and key lawmakers held a meeting on the topic this weekend after numerous reports of Texans receiving exorbitant electric bills despite not having power during the storm. One Texan, according to The New York Times, received a $16,752 electric bill.
Abbott called the meeting productive and said leaders "are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions." The meeting took place Saturday via phone conference call.
Along with Abbott, the heads of the Senate and House — Republicans Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, respectively — were also on the call.
Members of the two chambers also participated in the meeting, including chairs of the budget-writing Senate Finance and House Appropriations committees, as well as chairs of the Senate Business and Commerce and House Energy Resources committees.
The discussion with lawmakers, according to the governor’s office, centered on calculating the cost of those skyrocketing energy bills and “how the state can help reduce this burden.”
Later this week, state House and Senate committees will convene to investigate how outages happened and what roles entities like the Electric Reliability Council of Texas played in those power failures.
"Thursday begins the questioning of the stakeholders involved to find out if anything went wrong, what went wrong, who's to blame, and more importantly, what solutions moving forward we can do as a state Legislature ... to make sure this absolutely never happens again," said state Rep. Craig Goldman, a Fort Worth Republican who chairs the House Energy Resources Committee, during an interview that aired Sunday on KXAS-TV in Dallas.