Texas senators expressed their displeasure in a committee hearing Tuesday that natural gas companies will not be required to better prepare their facilities for extreme weather before this winter, and chastised the Texas Railroad Commission, which oversees the state’s massive oil and gas industry, for failing to address the issue sooner. However, the “loophole” that lawmakers spent the hearing denouncing, as well as the sluggish timetable for winterizing the state power grid, were both included in legislation passed during the spring parliamentary session.
According to a BuzzFeed News study, Gov. Greg Abbott called weatherizing the state’s electrical producing infrastructure an emergency priority immediately after February’s terrible winter storm, which left millions without power for days in frigid weather and killed 700 Texans. Abbott signed laws passed by the legislature in June to ensure that the weatherization process was completed. Senate Bill 3, which Abbott signed into law, establishes a committee by September 2022 to map out the state’s energy infrastructure, then gives the Railroad Commission 180 days to approve its weatherization guidelines.
On Tuesday, members of the Senate Business and Commerce Committee expressed dissatisfaction with the new law, which permits natural gas providers to opt out of weatherization regulations if they do not voluntarily declare themselves to the state as “vital infrastructure.” They also chastised the timetables set out in the legislation they passed earlier this year, as well as the current rule-making process at the Railroad Commission, for making weatherizing the state’s natural gas system — a critical component of the electricity grid — a sluggish and difficult process. Senators have told Wang that they want the Railroad Commission to move faster to force gas companies to weatherize their equipment.