The letter, posted on Earth Day, argues that February's Winter Storm Uri, which left millions of Texans without power, had the most devastating impact on low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities. At least 133 Texans, including nine in Bexar County, died due to the storm, according to the most recent state health data.
The signatories — which include the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter and consumer watchdog Public Citizen — say that devastation is cause for local leaders to demand more accountability from city-owned utilities CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System.
Both CPS and SAWS have faced blistering criticism for their handling of the storm, and Nirenberg created an independent panel to investigate the outages.
"Today, in the shadow of the destruction of Winter Storm Uri, we see again how race and class have played a major component in who suffered and died, the letter states. "The experiences of those suffering through the freezing blackout with little or no insulation, for instance, those already homebound with preexisting illness and disability, were dramatically different than those who benefitted from more resources."
The signatories of the letter ask Nirenberg and council to make the following changes:
- Prevent CPS Energy and San Antonio Water System from disconnecting the most-vulnerable households when they're unable to make payments.
- Prioritize utilities' use of weatherization, demand management and solar power to prevent future outages.
- Require CPS Energy to accept public input as part of its decision-making processes.
- Put a hold on rate increases until local utilities can create new structures that are fairer to poor residents and promote energy efficiency.
- Shut down CPS Energy's coal-burning Spruce plant, one of the region's largest sources of greenhouse gases, by 2030.
Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.