***Masks and social distancing required!***
On Sunday, February 28th at 2pm CT join The Party for Socialism and Liberation at the ERCOT campus in Austin to demand immediate action in the wake of the winter storms that have left millions of people in Texas without power, heat, or water. This was not an unpredictable or natural event, but the result of decades of deregulation, profit-driven corner-cutting, neglect of working-class Black and Latino communities, failure to winterize the infrastructure and plan for emergencies, and over-reliance on unreliable fossil fuels. We demand the following:
-Put ERCOT and all utilities under public control
ERCOT makes the decisions that affect the price, availability, reliability, and supply of Texas power. But ERCOT is a private corporation that makes decisions based on power industry profit, not on public need. Even in good weather, the power grid managed by ERCOT experiences rolling blackouts and high prices. The deregulated, profit-driven system they manage has failed to provide affordable or reliable power to Texas residents. ERCOT failed so disastrously as a private company that even public utilities, such as water, were catastrophically affected. We demand that the state of Texas bring ERCOT and all utilities under public control so that we can have transparency, accountability, fair pricing, and long-term planning to prevent future disasters.
-Convict criminal ERCOT executives
ERCOT’s failings have resulted in blackouts and water system failures during past winter storms. Their own studies have shown that Texas’ power grid is in danger of collapse during future storms. Yet ERCOT executives and board members ignored their own studies and focused on short-term profits.
During the 2021 storm, ERCOT initially claimed that there would be “rolling blackouts” that would leave residents with partial power. Instead, outages lasted for days or longer. ERCOT failed to properly prepare for winter storms, lied to the public about what to expect, shut off power from certain neighborhoods in favor of rich communities and empty downtown corporate buildings, and failed to provide any transparency about their emergency operations. Dozens of people are now dead of hypothermia, in fires, or of carbon monoxide poisoning as they tried everything they could to stay alive. Hundreds are being treated for these same conditions. We demand criminal charges and convictions against negligent ERCOT executives and board members.
-Convert to green energy (wind and solar)
Fossil fuels were responsible for the near-collapse of the Texas power grid in two ways. First, the climate change caused by fossil fuels destabilizes the polar vortex, making extreme winter storms far more likely. Both extreme cold and extreme heat will continue to strain the power grid to breaking points. Second, coal- and gas-powered plants were responsible for 80% of the power loss during the storm. Fossil fuels create climate disasters that unreliable, fossil fuel-powered plants cannot solve. We demand that the state of Texas begin immediate and rapid conversion to renewable solar and wind energy.
-No utility shut-offs and make ERCOT pay for damages
Power companies are attempting to gouge electric prices and pass that cost onto residents. People are being charged extra for a service that was not provided to them. Millions of Texans were already struggling and facing eviction before the storm and before the COVID-19 pandemic. They need power and water to survive and they can’t pay Texas’ inflated prices. It is unconscionable that a single person would go another night without access to life-saving necessities. Now that the grid is stable, stop all utility shut-offs to residents, regardless of ability to pay! Since ERCOT caused the instability, make them pay for the damage they caused and the inflated prices they created!
-Open up more shelters and offer free transportation
Texas cities took a hands-off, “every-man-for-himself” approach to sheltering homeless or powerless people. Some cities only opened a few shelters in central areas with limited hours of availability. Transportation to these shelters was a “free-for-all” with roads blocked by snow. Already-limited bus systems kept charging people for rides well into the storm, before shutting down services. The result is that countless people, especially the homeless, were left to fend for themselves or die on snow-covered city streets. Meanwhile, massive stadiums and downtown buildings were left empty.
We demand that Texas cities open up more shelters, especially in poorer areas of the city, and provide free, increased public transportation to all of these shelters days, not hours, before storms arrive. We also demand that cities open up their stadiums and similar large, powered facilities as shelters during winter storms.
-Cancel rents and mortgages
Working people are already suffering. Despite federal, state, and local governments trying to force people back to work, businesses and schools cannot open and operate safely. The winter storm has exacerbated this problem and forced people who were already behind on bills to miss even more work. Debt is piling up and no economic relief is in sight. The two-time stimulus checks were not enough to change the course of spiraling debt and homelessness. We demand that the government use the compounded emergencies to cancel all rents and mortgages for tenants, homeowners, small businesses, and small landlords. They absolutely have the power and authority to take this action. Only canceling the rents will prevent a snowballing wave of evictions and keep people housed!