US News Texas gas companies face fines up to $1 million for failing to prepare for extreme weather

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A year and a half after a severe winter storm nearly collapsed the state’s power grid, Texas oil and gas regulators approved new rules Tuesday that would require natural gas companies to properly prepare their equipment for extreme weather.

The rules will require oil and gas companies to be able to continue operating during a weather emergency, but they do not specify the standards the agency’s inspectors will use to measure readiness. They also require companies to submit annual reports to the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state’s massive oil and gas sector, outlining what they have done to ensure their facilities won’t fail during weather emergencies.

If companies do not comply with the new rules, they would be subject to a minimum $5,000 fine and a maximum fine of $1 million.

Critics are skeptical about whether the Railroad Commission can prevent another catastrophe like the one that struck Texas in February 2021, when extended freezing temperatures shut down natural gas facilities and power plants, which rely on each other to keep electricity flowing. The resulting blackouts left millions of Texans without power for days, and hundreds of people died in the winter storm.

A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report on the Texas freeze released in late 2021 found that 87% of unplanned generation outages were due to fuel issues related to natural gas.

 
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