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Energy Sector Assisting Texas Relief Efforts Following February Freeze
Following the devastating winter storm Uri last month that left millions of Texans without electricity for days and billions in damages, utilities and oil and gas producers, along with other industries, have stepped up to assist with relief efforts.
The damage and economic losses from the winter storms in February could reach $155 billion across the country. Damages in Texas alone have been estimated at $50 billion-plus. In reaction, energy companies with operations in Texas have donated millions.
Houston-based Reliant Energy is donating $50,000 to the Houston branch of Rebuilding Together, a nonprofit focused on repairing homes, to direct support to at-risk seniors and military veteran homeowners to repair weather damage.
“At Reliant, we are honored to support critical response organizations like Rebuilding Together that can mobilize quickly to alleviate hardships our communities are facing,” said Reliant’s President Elizabeth Killinger. “Texas is our home, and together with our employees, Reliant will do everything we can to provide assistance and resources to those in need after this devastating winter storm.”
The donation is part of a $3 million commitment Reliant and its parent company, NRG Energy Inc., is providing to address food and water shortages, temporary or changed housing, and the overall recovery effort across Texas. Reliant is actively evaluating needs across the state and joining together with nonprofit partners to provide customer and community assistance.
“We are grateful to our longtime partner Reliant for stepping forward just days after this unprecedented winter storm to support homeowners in need,” said Rebuilding Together Houston CEO Christine Holland. “These last few weeks, we’ve witnessed countless acts of neighbors helping neighbors. In that spirit, we are focused on making essential repairs that will help people in Houston remain safely in their homes.”
Reliant is also providing customers facing hardships from the winter storm various voluntary payment extensions, late fee waivers, deferred payment plans, and increased funding of bill payment assistance for its Community Assistance from Reliant Energy program.
U.S. electricity provider Vistra Corp. committed $5 million to assist Texas communities and customers across its retail brands, including TXU Energy and Ambit Energy. Irving, WA-based Vistra is also providing direct donations to social service agencies across the state along with bill-payment assistance for customers in need.
Vistra, with 4.3 million electricity and natural gas customers in Texas and other states, said donations would be sent to food banks and pantries, as well as provide for other critical needs.
“Even as power has returned and the electric grid has stabilized, so many Texans are dealing with cleanup and hardships brought on by the extended winter weather,” said Vistra CEO Curt Morgan. “We know that every dollar that can be directed elsewhere is helpful.”
The company also said its residential customers on fixed and variable pricing plans will be “insulated from extreme wholesale power price swings,” mentioning that the company does “not put our customers at risk.”
The Sempra Energy Foundation recently pledged an additional $1 million to assist Texan communities, which was on top of a previous $250,000 donation from Sempra Energy for food relief in Houston and Southeast Texas.
“As Texans across the state continue to navigate the effects of the recent winter storm, we are in close contact with community leaders to address some of their most immediate and critical needs,” said Foundation chair Lisa Alexander.
In addition, Sempra Energy said it would add support to the $1 million donation by its Texas utility, Oncor Electric Delivery Co. LLC, for community organizations within the service territory. “Beyond Oncor’s previously announced commitment of $1 million to help those affected by the recent severe winter storms, this additional support from the Sempra Energy Foundation will further enable communities within our service area to lean on local organizations for assistance as they look to recover in the aftermath of this devastating winter freeze,” said Oncor Senior Vice President Debbie Dennis. “We appreciate the Sempra Energy Foundation stepping forward with even more support.”
The funds donated by the foundation and Oncor are to go toward distributing resources such as food, water and repairs for those affected by severe damages caused by the winter freeze. The foundation said it is also in contact with community partners in Texas to identify additional areas of need for funds distribution.
Help For Houston, Port Arthur
Exploration and production giant Hess Corp. announced a $1 million donation to the Houston Harris County 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund and an additional $1 million to the Houston Food Bank.
The Houston Harris County 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund is supporting individual families that require additional assistance to recover, including plumbing and home repairs, temporary housing, and other basic needs. Hess is also matching donations made by its employees through its matching gift program.
“Our hearts go out to the many families who are struggling to recover from this devastating storm,” said CEO John Hess. “We are making these donations to help people in need whose lives have been so severely impacted.”
Houston-based Phillips 66 said it would contribute $450,000 to winter storm relief and recovery efforts across Houston, with $250,000 for the Houston Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund and $200,000 for the Houston Food Bank.
“We are very grateful for the organizations that stepped up and helped millions of Houstonians who struggled to keep themselves and their families warm and fed when the winter storm hit,” said CEO Greg Garland. “These groups have been on the frontline helping communities hit by the pandemic, too, and Phillips 66 is proud to support their efforts.”
United Way of Greater Houston CEO Amanda McMillian said, “There are so many in our community who were impacted by the Texas severe winter storm, including many who were already struggling from the pandemic and its economic impact. We are incredibly grateful for Phillips 66’s generosity.”
Houston Food Bank CEO Brian Greene said the gift from Phillips 66 would provide “access to 600,000 meals for people in need in our community. We thank them for their continued support to help us provide food for better lives.”
In addition, Houston-based Aramco Americas Co., the U.S. subsidiary of Saudi Arabian Oil Co., sent three donations totaling $1 million to help Houston and nearby Port Arthur with critical public health needs following the freeze.
Aramco’s donations consisted of $500,000 to the Houston Health Foundation for seniors and at-risk populations; $400,000 to the Houston Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund; and $100,000 was received by the Southeast Texas Emergency Relief Fund to help residents in the city of Port Arthur.
Houston Health Foundation CEO Robin Mansur said, “we know there are dire needs throughout Houston now, especially for seniors and Houstonians with disabilities who require immediate support to recover from the storm. We are partnering with the Harris County Area Agency on Aging and the Houston Health Department who are in contact with over 60,000 seniors in our community to help identify vulnerable residents who have endured freezing temperatures and damage to their homes. Aramco’s generosity will go directly to help with our response.”
Aramco Americas CEO Nabeel I. Alafaleg said, “Houston has been our headquarters home for nearly 50 years. We look to help Houston during these challenging times and extend our support to Port Arthur — communities where we live and work.” Aramco subsidiary Motiva Enterprises LLC, based in Port Arthur, is North America’s largest refinery and chemical complex.
Meanwhile, a $1 million donation has been announced by Plano, TX-based Toyota Motors North America for relief programs spread across North Texas, San Antonio and Houston.
The $1 million donation is split across eight different organizations, with $450,000 being received by the United Way of Metropolitan Texas; $100,000 to the North Texas Food Bank; $30,000 to The Family Place and Genesis Women’s Shelter; $100,000 to San Antonio Water Systems Pipe Repair Fund; and $200,000 to Let’s Help San Antonio Fund.
Houston donations consist of $50,000 for the United Way of Greater Houston for the Greater Houston 2021 Winter Storm Relief Fund; $50,000 for the Houston Food Bank; and $200,000 being sent to CrowdSource Rescue to provide food, water, and fuel for those in need.
“We take our role as community leaders seriously, so when winter storms affected millions right in our backyard, our top priority became helping Texas get back on its feet after this ordeal,” said Toyota Motors North America’s Sean Suggs, vice president of social innovation.
Toyota Motors North America, whose Texas workforce numbers around 7,200, is also matching employee donations to nonprofit organizations of up to $10,000.
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