The Brief: Top Texas News for Feb. 7, 2011

An electrical substation in Comfort, Texas.
An electrical substation in Comfort, Texas.

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

The causes may have been explained away, but the fallout from last week's rolling blackouts may just be heating up.

As the Tribune's Kate Galbraith and a number of other sources reported last week, a confluence of coal and gas plant trouble, owing to the freezing temperatures across Texas, appeared to have led to the blackouts, which swept through the state beginning Wednesday morning, leaving hundreds of thousands of Texans intermittently without power.

But on Friday, Politico reported that the White House was beating back accusations from conservative lawmakers and rumors circulating online that the Obama administration's environmental policies had played a role in prescribing the blackouts. "You can’t believe everything you read," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the state has ordered an investigation into the power outages, including speculation that power companies faked plant difficulties to drive prices up (a practice made famous by a California incident involving Enron that you might recall).

 

And Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst has said the Senate could begin hearings on the cause of the blackouts as soon as this week.

The fallout has been most tangibly felt, though, in El Paso, where last week's weather lowered reservoir levels, prompting the mayor to declare a "water emergency" on Sunday. For the third day, the public has been asked to use water for drinking purposes only. Car washes and laundromats have been ordered to close, restaurants have been told to reduce usage and close early, and schools have also been advised to close.

A representative for the city's water utility told the El Paso Times that if all goes well, the city "should be back in a reasonable situation" in 24 hours. But, he added, "if people don't cooperate, and they continue using water and watering their lawn and so forth, it can extend for several days."

CULLED:

  • The Dallas Morning News today takes a Monday-morning-quarterback look of sorts at the Super Bowl (the logistics, not the game), which attracted the likes of Laura and George W. Bush and Condoleezza Rice — but fell short of a record crowd.
  • How will Gov. Rick Perry square that rosy picture he painted of Texas during election season last year with the harsh realities the state faces as it tries to close a $27 billion budget gap? He'll walk that tightrope, the Austin American-Statesman reports, as he delivers his State of the State address Tuesday.

"This has impacted everything. This community was not built for sustained sub-freezing temperatures." — El Paso City Manager Joyce Wilson on the city's water emergency

MUST-READ:

 

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