FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 19, 2021
Leading Youth Mobilizing Organizations Joined by Community Leaders to Rally for Action in Aftermath of Winter Storm Devastation
Latinx leaders shared personal stories of winter storm impact to demand state leaders prioritize people’s needs over wasteful bailouts for fossil fuel corporations
AUSTIN TX — Young community leaders from Texas Rising and Jolt Initiative today were joined by state lawmakers and environmental experts to urge support for the #GenteFirstPledge, a nonpartisan effort to oppose taxpayer bailouts for fossil fuel corporations, and instead take action to protect regular Texan families first.
A recording of the online event can be viewed here.
The effort was launched by Texas Rising and Jolt Initiative to demand state and federal lawmakers put people first and support communities, rather than provide additional bailouts to fossil fuel corporations, as the state and country emerges from the pandemic and its economic impacts. The effort has taken on renewed significance following the winter storm in February, when nearly 3 million Texans lost power, nearly 12 million Texans faced water disruptions, and 57 Texans lost their lives.
“It’s about time that our state government put people first, our Gente FIRST, and stop throwing money at the fossil fuel industry, which only hurts our communities,” said Ric Galvan, Texas Rising Organizer for Central Texas. “What we should do is provide working families with the relief they need and empower working class Texans, including Black, indigenous and all Texans of color, with a big investment in clean energy and an equitable economy.”
“For decades, our community has been feeling the consequences of the decisions made by fossil fuel executives and state leaders who collaborate in the interest of profits, not our community,” said Aaron Gonzales, Jolt Initiative Austin volunteer. “It’s time for that to end. Climate change hurts communities of color, and it’s time for our elected officials to prove that they’re working for our best interests, by making Texans’ wellbeing a priority and encouraging growth in clean energy across the state.”
“Decision makers have time and time again put the interests of fossil fuel corporations ahead of the struggling Texans,” said Dave Cortez, Texas Coordinator, Clean Energy For All. “After the 2011 freeze, the legislature and Governor passed soft legislation to give authority to the Public Utilities Commission to enforce energy generators to weatherize. Staffed and governed by energy industry insiders, the PUC refused to act. And with big oil & gas decimating any hint of reform, the Railroad Commission did even less. 10 years later and our entire energy system collapsed, people are dead, and thousands of Texans continue to struggle. We demand and deserve better.”
The winter storm had devastating impacts on Texas — particularly among low-income and vulnerable communities of color. Rampant manipulation of information is being used to renew misguided calls for propping up fossil fuel corporations over clean energy, with the tax dollars of the same hardworking Texans who saw freezing temperatures brought inside their own homes when the grid failed. This comes at a time when billions have already been siphoned off to bail out the oil industry using funds intended for COVID-19 relief.
While the fossil fuel industry would have the public believe otherwise, it was in fact failing fossil fuel plants and an outdated grid that were the main culprit behind the widespread power outages. Texans, meanwhile, find themselves saddled with exorbitant energy bills in the aftermath of the storm.
The pledge, found online here, seeks to mobilize young Texans and elected officials into action, calling on state and federal elected officials to:
- Build a healthy and equitable economy for all
- Assist communities to recover from the historic winter storm, and support a transition to clean renewable energy
- Prioritize care of communities devastated by pollution
- Support workers and their families
Before the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down schools and businesses, countless working families in the state struggled to breathe because they live in polluted areas, and Texas was already feeling the irreparable consequences of climate change, from extreme temperatures and hurricanes of historic magnitude to flooding and worsening air pollution that exacerbates asthma.
Investing in Texas clean energy is more critical than ever at a time when we see before us an unmistakable transformation underway. Texas solar is growing fast, and Texas power continues to be among the lowest-cost in the country. And the state is already producing more wind power than any other., During the winter storm, experts say coal and gas performed below expectations, while wind power actually performed above expectations..
Both Galvan and Gonzales are available for media interviews following the rally.
About Texas Rising
Texas Rising, a project of the Texas Freedom Network, builds the power of a rising generation of young Texans, with an emphasis on communities of color, by advocating for change in the cities and towns where they live and at the ballot box. To learn more, visit txrising.org.
About Jolt Initiative
Jolt Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2016 focused on increasing civic engagement and participation among young Latinos in Texas. Annually, nearly 210,000 Latinos already living in Texas will turn 18 years of age. Of this group, 95 percent are U.S. citizens and will become eligible to vote in local, state, and national elections.1 Jolt Initiative’s work is comprised of community organizing, leadership development, voter engagement, and multi-issue advocacy. Through these efforts, Jolt Initiative serves to propel political participation and leadership among young Latinos as they engage on the issues that matter to them. To learn more, visit joltinitiative.org.
1 U.S. Census Bureau. “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2016.” United States Census Bureau. May 2017.