Reflecting on this time last year brings back strong memories for me, as I’m sure it
does for many of my neighbors. Last February, in the midst of celebrating Black history
and the future we have yet to write, the lights went out as Texas’ outdated and
unreliable fossil fuel-dependent power grid failed in sub-freezing temperatures.
Millions were left in the dark for days, and 700 people died before the lights came back
on. Black and Brown communities were the hardest hit, disproportionately bearing the
devastation of extended power outages. Once again, a freeze is settling into our
communities. Tens of thousands of people are at risk of losing power. And I suspect,
we’ll walk away with a similar result – Black and Brown communities once again most
vulnerable to an unreliable grid that our leaders failed to fix.

Winter Storm Uri rolled in just as many Black families were rebuilding from Hurricane
Harvey’s devastation. This storm only renewed the physical, emotional, and financial
trauma many Texans have felt at the hands of extreme weather. Both Winter Storm Uri
and Hurricane Harvey ravaged vast sections of Texas, but environmental injustices,
lack of access to recovery services, discriminatory housing practices, and Texas’ long
history of redlining and gentrification meant that Black and Brown communities were
disproportionately impacted. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Americans overwhelmingly want climate action, and frontline communities need bold,
immediate solutions to break the cycle of destruction and rebuilding that has followed
thousands of families in Texas. The Build Back Better Act makes necessary
investments in clean energy manufacturing that have the power to uplift families with
good-paying jobs while moving away from dependence on fossil fuels systems that
continue to both fail them and emit harmful pollution. Clean energy is safe, reliable,

and a major step toward delivering environmental justice to communities across the
nation. When Texas’ grid failed, it was clean energy that remained largely operational
– so much so that these systems were able to ease the burden on the fossil fuel-
powered grid.

These investments in climate and clean energy are deeply necessary, but they must
emphasize equitable solutions that center our neighbors who have been subjected to
the worst impacts of climate change. They must emphasize support for our neighbors
whose backyards have become oil fields and for whom climate change is an ever-
present danger.

Frontline communities will continue to get sick and die at the hands of climate change-
linked extreme weather events that fossil fuels and the emissions they create bear
responsibility for. But with clean energy investments, Texans can thrive. Climate
investments will bring jobs to working families across the state, building stability for
our communities while building a sustainable future for our world. Investments would
make life more affordable by detangling families from the volatile and unpredictable
oil and gas industry which drives up utility costs and prices at the pump, making vital
travel and necessary utilities unaffordable. Along with job gains, the emissions
reductions that will come with clean energy investments will go far to reduce the
burden on Black and Brown families on the frontlines and fence lines of the climate

This Black History Month, I am thinking of Black futures, too. I am tired of my
neighbors, my constituents, my community being left behind in conversations about
climate action and resilience. Congress must move swiftly to pass clean energy and
environmental justice investments so that Black Texans can stay safe through
extreme weather of all kinds, bring in jobs to the state that can boost local and
statewide economies, lower energy prices for already struggling families, and rebuild
for a better future without fear of another cycle of destruction. I know there is a
future where extreme weather isn’t an ever-present danger and people don’t panic
when the temperature drops below 50 degrees. There is a future where big
investments in environmental justice lessen the burden on Black and Brown
communities. Now is the time for Congress to deliver it.