Directs Companies to Use Extraordinary Measures to Meet Humanitarian Need
Gov. Rick Perry today issued an emergency proclamation authorizing public utility companies in Texas to speed relief and recovery efforts by laying temporary electric transmission lines in order to restore power lost as a result of Hurricane Rita.
"Restoring power is one of the most critical, humanitarian challenges we face in the immediate aftermath of this natural disaster," Perry said. "This proclamation will help public utility companies restore electricity faster to hundreds of thousands of homes, hospitals, schools and businesses that have fallen victim to Hurricane Rita."
The governor's proclamation will grant public utilities in Texas the authority to enter public and private property to install temporary electric transmission lines to restore power in East Texas, thereby removing the lengthy easement acquisition process which can take months. Companies must use existing utility and roadway easements when reasonably available, and will provide landowners with a letter explaining the great human need as well as their authority to access private grounds.
"Unfortunately, when it comes to restoring electric power we are not only suffering the effects of Hurricane Rita, but Katrina too," Perry said, noting that the most recent storm exacerbated already severe capacity and transmission problems for Entergy, the company that supplies power to many residents of East Texas and Louisiana.
"The quickest way to restore power is to go outside of the Entergy network, and hook up the transmission lines of ERCOT companies to the Entergy distribution system," Perry said. CenterPoint Energy has agreed to temporarily connect its lines to the Entergy grid, and TXU will assist with manpower.
"As utility workers span out across East and Southeast Texas, they will be knocking on doors as part of their effort to access some Texans' property to install lines on a temporary basis," Perry said. "I ask Texans to consider the plight of their neighbors to the east, and allow utilities to access their property for the health and safety of their fellow Texans."
Perry's proclamation also establishes a dispute resolution process to handle claims that might arise from the use of property. The statute requires that the state adjudicate any claim made for compensation for temporary use of property. The Office of Attorney General and the Public Utilities Commission are assisting in developing procedures.
Perry said that since Hurricane Rita struck Texas, the state has worked with federal and local officials to distribute hundreds of gasoline-powered generators to impacted communities. As a result, power has been restored to half of all effected critical infrastructure facilities such as hospitals and police stations.
Additionally, yesterday the governor announced a power restoration plan that includes bringing in 15,000 out-of-state workers and establishing 9 base camps throughout the region to accelerate restoration of electricity. The goal is to return power to all critical facilities by the end of this week.
In other relief efforts:
* Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Albert Hawkins has received verbal approval from the federal government to waive some regulations to quickly provide displaced Texas and Louisiana families affected by Hurricane Rita with disaster food stamp benefits. The waiver allows HHSC to immediately adjust policies for handling evacuees' cases, relaxing income and resources limits and removing other typical application requirements.
* Hawkins has also requested federal approval to ease food stamp benefit restrictions - including who qualifies for such assistance and approval to use stamps to purchase hot foods under certain circumstances.
* Federal, state and local officials on Tuesday worked together to make 546 deliveries of ice, 590 deliveries of water, and 184 deliveries of meals to affected areas. In addition, the U.S. Army delivered 87 pallets of food and water by 29 Chinook helicopters. The state is working around the clock to continue this coordinated, steady flow of supplies to East Texas.
* Several dozen large generators were installed at critical infrastructures in East Texas, which restored power to about half of the facilities that provide basic services to communities. This generator installation effort will continue. This process should speed up because the number of generator installation teams has been tripled as of today.
* The cities of Waco and Fort Worth have stepped up and will provide the capacity, medical resources and compassion to shelter special needs evacuees from East Texas. About 1,200 special needs individuals and their caretakers have been or will be transported to these cities. The state is also working with the City of San Antonio to provide shelters to serve a large evacuee population from East Texas.
* Rita victims in affected counties should register with FEMA. Individuals can register to receive emergency funds by calling 1-800-621-3362, or 1-800-462-7585 for hearing impaired, or by visiting the FEMA website if possible at www.fema.gov. Registration is a key step for individuals and businesses who are beginning the process of recovery from this disaster.