After guaranteeing the 'lights will stay on,' Texas Gov. Greg Abbott backpedals at press conference

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a prime time address that followed Winter Storm Uri. - YouTube Screen Capture / Gov Greg Abbott
YouTube Screen Capture / Gov Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a prime time address that followed Winter Storm Uri.
After famously pledging the "lights will stay on" this winter, Gov. Greg Abbott cautioned at a Tuesday press conference that Texas could see power outages amid the freezing temperatures expected later this week.

“No one can guarantee there won’t be [power outages],” Abbott said, according to a Texas Tribune report. Nonetheless, he used the pressure to assure Texans the state's power grid won't fail like it did during last February's devastating Winter Storm Uri.

The Republican governor's statement comes a scant two months after he told an Austin TV station he was beyond confident that new laws passed by the GOP-dominated Texas Legislature would prevent another failure of Texas' stand-alone grid.

"For one: I signed almost a dozen laws that make the power grid more effective. I can guarantee the lights will stay on,” Abbott said at the time.

At Tuesday's presser, that assurance came with significant qualifications — namely that certain types of outages could happen, but they weren't the grid's fault. Or, by implication, his.

“Either ice on power lines ... could cause a power line to go down, or it could be ice on trees that causes a tree to fall on power lines,” Abbott explained, according to the Tribune.

Last February's statewide freeze killed hundreds of Texans and became one of the costliest natural disasters in state history. It's also emerged as one of the governor's biggest reelection liabilities.

Abbott and other Texas lawmakers have faced criticism for passing laws in Uri's wake that critics say give too much wiggle room to power companies and natural gas suppliers who's equipment failed last winter. Further, the governor and Lege raked in millions in campaign contributions from those same businesses.

By Tuesday afternoon, Abbott's likely Democratic challenger, former El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke, had already fired off an email excoriating the governor for backtracking on his earlier promise.  

"Abbott failed to prepare us for a completely preventable disaster, and then failed to make changes that would protect us from the next extreme weather event," O'Rourke said. "To add insult to injury, this governor is forcing ratepayers across the state to clean up his mess."

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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