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    Texas PIRG: New Bills Would Increase Gas Industry Transparency

    March 14, 2023 - Targeted News Service


      AUSTIN, Texas, March 14 (TNSgov) -- The Texas Public Interest Research Group issued the following news release:

      Two years after Winter Storm Uri exposed the frailty of Texas' electric grid, state lawmakers are introducing multiple bills designed to protect Texans from high natural gas prices and gas supply chain-related blackouts.

      Sen. Borris Miles has filed SB 2021 to create an independent market monitor of the gas industry (similar to the watchdog that oversees Texas's energy industry). Rep. Ernest Bailes has filed HB 2128 to underline the attorney general's authority to take enforcement actions against companies that demand exorbitant or excessive prices for natural gas during a disaster. And Rep. John Bryant has filed HB 4708 to establish a "gas desk" to make sure ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), which manages the state's electric grid, has the information it needs to know whether power plants will have enough gas to keep the lights on, or whether to expect more cold-weather drops in production.

      "The Texas gas market is notoriously opaque, allowing bad actors to game the system and gouge consumers. We need a market monitor keeping an eye on the gas industry to watch out for malfeasance and stand up for Texans," said TexPIRG communications manager Shelley Livaudais. "This would go a long way toward restoring public confidence in the grid and in ensuring that Texans won't be powerless, without reliable, affordable energy."

      According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), 31% of blackouts during Winter Storm Uri in 2021 were caused by "massive natural gas production declines" resulting from "unplanned outages of natural gas wellheads due to freeze-related issues." Even as their Texan neighbors were left in the cold for days, with at least 246 dying, Texan oil and gas companies continued to export their product out of state and internationally. Gas prices soared, with some companies crowing about "hitting the jackpot." Power companies in Texas have accused pipeline firms of price gouging during Uri, and a lawsuit recently filed in Harris County claims that suppliers "engaged in an Enron-style scheme to cut off gas production or divert supplies into storage days ahead of freezing temperatures that would eventually cripple the Texas power grid."

      Texas has experienced more outages than any other state in the past 20 years. However, despite all the deep freeze-related deaths and billions of dollars of debt that will take Texas ratepayers decades to pay off, in the two years since the storm, Texas has done little to prevent another disaster. Those most responsible for the catastrophe didn't get driven out of business, go to jail, or even get fined. On the contrary, many of them profited then and are still profiting now.

      "In the two years since Uri, repeated failures in power plants and natural gas facilities, including one exacerbated by a nearly 20% drop in natural gas production during the December 2022 holidays, make it clear that we need to do more to shore up Texas's energy resiliency, infrastructure and communication," said Livaudais. "At a minimum, we need to increase transparency, because it's clear that when the gas industry operates in the dark, they leave us all in the dark too."

      * * *

      Original text here: https://pirg.org/texas/media-center/new-bills-would-increase-gas-industry-transparency/


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