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State lawmakers craft compromise bill in response to historic February storm

Updated: May. 20, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Texas lawmakers are putting their final touches on a far-reaching bill that would require the state’s power-generating infrastructure to weatherize in response to February’s winter storm.

Senate Bill 3 would require electricity generating plants and certain natural gas wells and pipelines to weatherize.

The bill would task a newly-created council with mapping out which pieces of natural gas infrastructure would need to be weatherized — namely, if they directly fuel electricity generating plants.

Opponents argue that the bill would not go far enough.

“We need to weatherize and winterize the entire natural gas supply chain,” Virginia Palacios, the executive director of Commission Shift, told KWTX.

“The area where this legislation is falling short is on the gas production side,” she said.

She also argued that the bill lacks an effective enforcement mechanism.

“The penalties [for not weatherizing facilities] are set so low that it would be cheaper for a company to just pay the penalties than to actually winterize their system,” she said.

Todd Staples with the Texas Oil and Gas Association, which represents natural gas interests in front of the Legislature, told KWTX in a written statement that the bill makes “substantial progress towards addressing the events that occurred during Winter Storm Uri.”

The bill would also require certain grid operators to practice for power outage emergencies twice per year and send out comprehensive radio, TV and roadside alerts before power outages.

During the February winter storm, some Texans argued that they were not given adequate notice to prepare for power outages.

“To the extent that we can really think these things through in the short amount of time and not have a knee-jerk reaction and be as comprehensive as possible, it’s good,” Caitlin Smith, a vice president with AB Power Advisors, told KWTX.

She said that the bill will likely be heavily modified later this week as lawmakers in both chambers continue to lobby for their priorities.

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