Natural gas companies across Texas will be required to winterize their facilities in preparation for colder weather after Texas regulators approved new rules on August 30. These measures were implemented to avoid a repeat of the major power outage the state faced in February 2021, NBC 5 reported.
The new mandate was passed by the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the natural gas industry in the state. If companies do not winterize, they will have to pay a fine, according to the Commission.
Railroad Commissioner Jim Wright said the new rules are well-balanced and will help the state be prepared for drastic weather. These regulations require that gas and oil companies continue operating, even in a weather-related emergency, the Texas Tribune reported.
Companies that do not comply with the rules could be hit with a fine of $5,000 to $1 million.
Wright shared on August 30 that “repeat and deliberate attempts to avoid compliance will not be taken lightly by the Commission, and it will result in a referral to the attorney general.”
Wright told NBC 5 that the Commission wanted a balance between over-regulation and keeping Texans safe. “This rule is about preparation. It’s about planning for the unknown. It’s about communicating,” he said, adding, “It is impossible to write rules or legislation to remove all risks.”
While some support the new regulations, others criticized them as not enough. Virginia Palacios, leader of the group called Commission Shift, said the penalties for not complying are too lax. She stated companies could choose to pay the fine instead of trying to winterize.
“We wanted to see them make it a little easier to cross into that highest category of violation so that operators would know it’s possible they could be really penalized in a significant way,” Palacios told NBC 5.
The new regulations have not allayed Palacio’s concerns about possible major outages this winter.
“It means we’re still uncertain. We still don’t know if we could have other major power outages if we run into another extreme weather event,” she said.
Winter storm “Uri” in February 2021 caused millions of Texans to go without water or power, killed over 200 people, and kept temperatures below freezing for multiple days.
A report by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) found that a total of 246 people died from causes related to the storm. Of those deaths, 229 were Texans, while 15 were out-of-state visitors.
The report revealed that the deceased ranged in age from infant to 102 years old. Hypothermia was the cause of more than half of the deaths caused by the storm.
“The loss of electricity and resulting loss of regular heating sources during the winter storm also led many to use alternate sources of heat,” the report stated.