AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Roughly nine months after the devastating February winter storm, the state agency that regulates natural gas is changing conditions as to which facilities must take extra precautions for extreme weather.
The Texas Railroad Commission voted Tuesday to require many, but not all, natural gas producers to weatherize facilities.
The commissioners deemed those that are “critical” must be able to keep power on in the event of rolling blackouts. Those that are “less critical” will still be able to opt-out of weatherization and pay a $150 fee.
Commissioner Jim Wright defined “super critical” facilities as the largest ones in Texas providing more than the amount of gas Texas needs on a given day. Wright estimated the “super critical” facilities to be about 19,000 natural gas providers.
“This group includes pipeline operators, gas processing facilities and natural gas storage infrastructure,” he said. “These leases and facilities are so important, so critical, that they will not be allowed to opt-out of the rule, period.”
The second group is comprised of “less critical” facilities, ones that produce a marginal amount of gas. The final group is “not critical,” consisting of facilities producing a low volume or no gas at all — a little over 1% of daily gas production in Texas. Wright said the noncritical facilities are “excellent candidates” for load-shedding to keep electricity flowing to larger facilities in a severe weather event.
Both of those groups will have to submit an application asking for exemption and if granted, pay the state $150.
“They will be required to present objective evidence of a reasonable cause and justification for such a request. And each of these requests will be scrutinized by the commission,” Wright said.
These changes come after backlash from Republicans and Democrats alike by allowing the $150 exemption fee. Commissioners argued Tuesday they do not have the authority to raise the fee price, proposing these exemption conditions as a solution.
But the changes are still met with criticism, many saying the regulations are not only long overdue but should have come immediately after the February storm.
Luke Warford, a Democratic candidate for the RCC, called the changes a “continuation of the same voluntary system that we had.”
“This is not gonna have an impact on securing our grid for this winter. And the result is just that we’re still at risk as we head into the winter,” Warford said.