Improvements could mean better protections for Texans, but overall Texas still not ready for another winter storm
LAREDO, Texas — The Railroad Commission of Texas approved a new “critical infrastructure” rule on November 30th. This new guidance identifies and categorizes facilities statewide that will have to comply with future weatherization rules meant to prevent another widespread blackout like Texans saw in February.
“This final rule is a real improvement from the draft proposal and speaks to the power of public participation,” said Virginia Palacios, Executive Director of Commission Shift. “Over 900 people commented on the earlier draft rule, and we’re pleased that the Railroad Commission made changes that address some of our top concerns.”
While the new rule is a good step, the Railroad Commission still hasn’t prepared Texas for this winter. Local governments should prepare warming centers and make plans for communication, transportation, and distribution of warming supplies in the event of widespread outages.
Texans still await a map of the supply chain, required by the legislature, that won’t come out until 2022, followed by proposed weatherization rules from the Railroad Commission. The changes incorporated into this new rule set up Texans more securely for the 2023 – 2024 winter and beyond.
Despite some comments from the commission chair, much of the February power outages came from frozen natural gas equipment that should have been protected against the cold. Recent expert analyses show that, overall, our state’s natural gas infrastructure is not ready for another winter storm.
Legislators passed a new law to require natural gas companies to weatherize their facilities, and this new critical infrastructure rule from the Railroad Commission sets out which facilities will have to comply with the future weatherization requirements.
“We applaud the public for participating in the critical infrastructure rulemaking and we encourage the Railroad Commission to do everything in its power to protect the gas supply chain so we don’t see deadly blackouts again this winter,” Palacios added.
Commission Shift is a Texas-based nonprofit building public support to hold the Railroad Commission of Texas accountable to its mission in a shifting energy landscape. We educate and organize a wide array of Texans to build support for changes at the Railroad Commission that improve the agency’s function, transparency, and accountability to the many people and places impacted by the oil and gas industry.