New Texas rules after blackout, but not for this winter – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Regulators for the Texas oil and gas industry, which struggled during February’s deadly freeze, moved Tuesday to make some producers more prepared for cold weather, but not in time for this winter, as the state’s power grid warned that the state is still at risk of power outages.

Republican Gov. Greg Abbott guarantees that the lights will remain on this winter. But energy experts are less confident, saying Texas’ response over the past nine months to a winter storm that killed hundreds of people – including some who froze to death after power was turned into the proud energy capital of the United States for several days – has been insufficient.

Some were concerned that gas operators, which froze together in February – by cutting off fuel for power plants – would be able to circumvent new weathering mandates by seeking exemptions. But gas supply, which the state considered critical, could not avoid doing so under new rules passed Tuesday, according to state regulators, which critics agreed was an improvement.

“It’s not just a card to get out of jail,” said Matt Garner, a lawyer for the Texas Railroad Commission, the state-owned agency that governs the oil and gas industry.

A recent annual winter forecast from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, which monitors the reliability of the country’s electrical sector, expected Texas to have nearly 40% shortage of available power to meet demand in the event of another severe storm this winter. Officials behind this forecast said such an extreme scenario is not highly likely, but it can not be ruled out.

The February storm led to one of the largest power outages in U.S. history, knocking out electricity to more than 4 million customers and leading to hundreds of deaths. Some homes stood without heat and water for days.

According to a report by federal officials in September, freezing problems were the biggest cause of dropout with 44%. It included frozen instruments and wind turbine blades. Fuel supply problems were the second largest factor with 31%. Supply problems were mainly related to natural gas, including frozen wellheads.

The process of requiring gas operators to weather does not begin until next year.

“They will not be prepared for this winter, and that’s something everyone should be aware of,” said Virginia Palacios, executive commissioner for Commission Shift, a group demanding more accountability from state energy regulators.

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