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Reflecting on this time last year brings back strong memories for me, as I’m sure it does for many of my neighbors in Texas.

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February, in the midst of celebrating Black history and the future we have yet to write, the lights went out as Texas’ outdated and unreliable fossil fuel-dependent power grid failed in sub-freezing temperatures.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. Nearly one year to the date, another dangerous freeze settled into our communities. This time, 70,000 people lost power. And once again Black and brown communities were 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 crisis.

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.


Ron Reynolds is a lawyer and member of the Texas House of Representatives representing House District 27. Reynolds is currently serving his sixth term in the Texas House.