Fight Back! News

News and Views from the People's Struggle

Eyewitness interview to the corporate-made disaster in Texas

By staff

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A Texas weather emergency spiraled out of control on February 14. This emergency has resulted in over 60 deaths, power outages affecting millions, and more than 13 million currently without access to water. What led to the emergency can be blamed mostly on natural gas and coal companies like Comstock Resources Inc, who sought only to make profits during the crisis. These companies never properly maintained these plants and, when the temperatures in Texas dipped, the plants froze and became inoperable.

In one of the richest countries in the world, mostly African American and Chicano residents of Texas found themselves without access to power, water or heating. Some resorted to melting and boiling large pots of snow to wash dishes and cook. A boil water advisory in effect, but many still do not have any power to even do that much.

The largely unregulated ‘nonprofit’ corporation Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) began doing rolling blackouts, blaming the Public Utility Commission for disconnecting power to millions of people. This was done for profit – avoiding the market price of natural gas from spiking, and thus making huge profits versus helping people. In one case a Texas resident has seen their electric bill rise to an unbelievable $17,000-plus.

Fight Back! interviewed Jennifer Miller, a resident of Dallas. Miller has a toddler son and organizes for African American liberation in Dallas. No stranger to the Texas government and authorities being racist and negligent, Miller has survived and took the time to answer some questions.

Fight Back!: You live in Dallas. When did you notice things were not improving?

Jennifer Miller: When the pileup of over 100 cars occurred in Fort Worth and subsequent pileups of multiple vehicles dotted the entire state, a few days prior to the winter storm. I knew it would be a really rough winter for us all. But when our power went out and our food started spoiling, I knew we were in serious trouble and I needed to figure something out, quickly.

Fight Back!: How prepared were people and the government in Texas for this kind of weather?

Miller: Not prepared at all. Many people in Texas don’t even own true winter clothing. One thing that a lot of people don’t understand is that Texas homes are not insulated for cold. They’re designed to make losing heat easier, as the summers are sweltering and can easily go above 100 degrees on a normal day. Our pipes are also buried in shallower depths because there’s no reason to bury them deeply for freezes.

Fight Back!: The power has been spotty and access to water nonexistent in countless places. How has this affected you and your son?

Miller: Our power went out really early Monday morning [February 15], around 2 a.m. It didn’t come back on at all and the temperature inside my home was at 45 degrees, and continued to drop. I had my son and I both bundled up but he continued to shiver and I could see our breath suspended in the air inside of the house. Luckily, I was able to stay with two friends who live closer to essential services, so their power was consistently on. However, they both had issues with their water. Their water took on a chlorinated, chemical smell and they were seeing videos posted online of other Dallasites whose towels were bleached by it.

As of now, Thursday [February 18], I have power, but my water is still unsafe to drink. The main water line broke and has leached bacteria into the water supply. We are unable to drink, cook, or wash dishes and clothing without boiling the water first. It’s really difficult to feed my son now because cooking things takes twice as long due to the need to boil the water I use first, and we’re having to conserve our bottled water for drinking so I can’t use it to cook as often as I would like to. Even if I wanted to go to a restaurant, we’re all under the same boil advisory, so restaurants are closed. It’s really difficult to listen to him whine about hunger and thirst knowing that by the time I finish cooking something he’ll be inconsolably hungry and I’m powerless to do anything about it.

Fight Back!: What have you seen the majority of residents in Dallas doing to survive the freeze?

Miller: The majority of people have taken to really dangerous methods to keep warm, like using their ovens as heaters, burning unsafe materials in their fireplaces, and warming up in vehicles. There have been multiple reports of fires and carbon monoxide poisonings due to people using last-ditch efforts to try to keep warm. The city of Dallas did implement warming stations, but they’re turning away homeless Dallasites.

Fight Back!: Senator Ted Cruz recently fell under public scrutiny for taking a trip to Cancún during this time. What do you have to say about that?

Miller: Frankly, I’m not surprised by his cowardly behavior. It’s still such a huge insult because his constituents are literally dying due to his and ERCOT’s lack of responsibility to winterize the equipment, knowing that this storm was coming. He had it in him to criticize California during the wildfires when there were major power outages, and look at his own state, millions of people in the dark because of his and the Texas GOP’s failed policies.

Fight Back!: Hurricane Harvey in 2017 showed the world that the U.S. government and local Texas government are not actually interested in helping victims of natural disasters. What are politicians doing this time in Dallas to help the people?

Miller: There are few if no politicians who are doing much to help Dallasites, at least none that I’ve heard of, besides career grifters who have always leeched off the work of local activists to help their campaigns. There are some local activists who I’ve known for a while that are stepping up to the plate to provide access to hotels, warm meals and clean potable water.

Fight Back!: What can the general public do to help the people of Texas right now?

Miller: So for the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex there are many organizations that are stepping up to provide help for vulnerable people who are still braving this storm. I do recommend either donating to these groups or posting on social media about them to drum up donations if you’re not able to do that yourself. We’re watching politicians go on vacation, post callous remarks about state and local government “owing us nothing” and turning a blind eye to our plight, this is an important time to show how community really is all we have. Two great organizations that come to mind are Black Royal Family ($BlackRoyalFamily20) and Not My Son ($NotMySonDallas). They’re putting people in hotels and distributing water, clothing, food, firewood and other resources to those in need.

If you can’t signal boost or donate yourself, please do keep us in mind and have compassion for Texans. I’ve seen a lot of callousness surrounding our situation and this true natural disaster we’re dealing with. Call out your friends. It’s not funny that your fellow man is cold, scared and hungry. Regardless of where they live.

#Texas #TX #PeoplesStruggles #weatherEmergency