Texas Leaders Say They Have a Plan to Protect Critical Facilities from Power Outages – but Texans Aren’t Allowed to See ItPress Release

Questions about enforcement and transparency remain as state designates “critical infrastructure”

This week Commission Shift and Texans for Public Justice published a report detailing the Railroad Commission’s (RRC) progress in designating “critical infrastructure” facilities on the natural gas supply chain.  

The deadly freeze of February took out much of Texas’ electric grid. A major contributing factor was inadequate weatherization of the natural gas infrastructure like wellheads and pipelines that provide 46% of the energy running through the Electric Reliability Council of Texas grid.

As part of the Texas Legislature’s response to Winter Storm Uri, Senate Bill 3 directed the Railroad Commission to issue rules to designate some natural gas facilities as “critical infrastructure.” These facilities will eventually be subject to weatherization requirements and, where possible, will be protected from future blackouts. 

Now there is a new Electricity Supply Chain Map that shows which facilities are designated as critical, though the map is not available to the public – not even to legislators.

The Electricity Supply Chain and Security Mapping Committee met for about 15 minutes yesterday to discuss the map, but our new analysis highlights significant concerns:

  • Most facilities are designated critical, producing at least three times average daily gas consumption in Texas. However, the data for facilities with exceptions from critical designation is jumbled. The Railroad Commission says it cannot provide definitive lists of which facilities have been designated “critical” versus those that still have applications pending for exceptions. 
  • The confidential Electricity Supply Chain Map prevents the public from knowing which facilities must be weatherized. Only natural gas facilities (i.e. wells and pipelines) that are both designated critical and listed on the secret map will be required to weatherize. 
  • Conflicts of interest at the Railroad Commission and the Texas Energy Reliability Council (TERC) jeopardize trust in the weatherization enforcement process.
Read the Full Report

The Railroad Commission is expected to release draft natural-gas weatherization rules at its June 7th Open Meeting and to adopt final rules by the end of summer, well ahead of the winter. Public Utility Commission of Texas Executive Director Thomas Gleeson said the rules will help the grid endure both winter and summer emergencies.

The Electricity Supply Chain Map will be updated twice per year. Gleeson said that the public is welcome to provide feedback to the mapping committee even though citizens cannot see its handiwork.

Those wishing to participate in the Railroad Commission’s June 7th Open Meeting must register by noon CT on June 6th (see instructions on the agenda). Commissioners need not call on people who register to comment on an agenda item. They do typically allow comment on items that are not on the agenda during the Public Input section.

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