The White House added that Biden also "expressed gratitude" for front-line workers such as highway patrol officers and first responders who have been on call during the crisis

By Virginia Chamlee
February 19, 2021 04:47 PM
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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left), President Joe Biden
| Credit: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty; SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty

President Joe Biden told Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this week that the federal government will continue working with state and local authorities in Texas in an effort to provide relief to the residents hard-hit by deadly winter weather there.

The White House said Biden, 78, spoke on Tuesday to governors of several states pummeled by the severe weather, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Texas Gov. Abbott.

"President Biden relayed to the governors that he understood the severity of the conditions being felt across the states, and that he and the First Lady were praying for swift recovery from the effects of the storm," a White House spokesperson said. "President Biden reiterated to all the governors that his Administration is prepared to assist and stands ready to respond to requests for Federal assistance from the governors and will deploy any additional Federal emergency resources available to assist the residents of their states in getting through this historic storm."

The White House added that Biden also "expressed gratitude" for front-line workers such as highway patrol officers and first responders who have been on call during the crisis.

Earlier this week, Biden approved an emergency declaration in the state, authorizing FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts there.

"Jill and I are keeping Texas, Oklahoma, and other impacted states in our prayers. I've declared states of emergency, authorized FEMA to provide generators and supplies, and am ready to fulfill additional requests," Biden tweeted Thursday about him and the first lady. "Please heed the instructions of local officials and stay safe."

In a Thursday press conference, Deputy National Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall said that FEMA had made "60 generators and fuel available to support critical sites like hospitals and water facilities" in Texas, and has "moved in 729,000 liters of water, more than 10,000 wool blankets, 50,000 cotton blankets, and 225,000 meals."

Sherwood-Randall continued: "And it's also deploying additional capabilities as we speak, trying to be postured for additional demands that Texas may place — additional requests that Texas may express to FEMA for needs that FEMA can respond to.  So, for example, trying to figure out how to get more fuel, oil, and diesel oil in, if necessary, to power facilities in this emergency."

The winter storm that hit Texas and other parts of the U.S. this week saw the state's power grid buckle, with more than four million people losing power (many for days at a time).

Dozens of deaths have been linked to the weather.

Sherwood-Randall noted that Texas' energy supply is "islanded," meaning the state operates its own power grid and so can't receive a large transfer of power from other states when supply is low or shut off.
 
"That is a deliberate decision that was made by Texas. But I do think, going forward, there's an important conversation to be had around how we can enhance the resilience of our critical infrastructure to meet the needs of all our citizens," Sherwood-Randall said. "For now, we're focused obviously on these days. The future will give us an opportunity to conduct that discussion at the federal, state, and local level."

While some Republicans have blamed green and renewable energy for the state's blackouts, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas — which operates the state's power grid — said in a press conference this week that failures in natural gas, coal and nuclear energy attributed to nearly twice as many outages as solar panels and wind turbines.

Abbott, a Republican, has placed blame to green energy sources this week but has been careful not to criticize his state's oil and gas industry, which is a major political force in the state.

The Texas governor was critical of Biden during the campaign for president, saying he would be "bad for Texas" and initially refusing to acknowledge his win, instead calling for recounts in a show of support for former President Donald Trump.