RRC’s Commissioners Approve Final Rule to Weatherize Natural Gas Supply for EmergenciesAugust 30, 2022
AUSTIN – Railroad Commission of Texas commissioners today adopted the state’s first weatherization rule for natural gas facilities to protect gas flow to power generators and ensure Texans have electricity during weather emergencies.
The new Weather Emergency Preparedness Standards rule (Statewide Rule 3.66) implements provisions in Senate Bill 3, which was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Abbott in 2021 following the Winter Storm Uri.
The new rule requires critical gas facilities on the state’s Electricity Supply Chain Map to weatherize, based on facility-specific factors, to ensure sustained operation during a weather emergency; correct known issues that caused weather-related forced stoppages occurred before Dec. 1, 2022; and contact the RRC if they sustain a weather-related forced stoppage during a weather emergency.
Types of critical facilities include natural gas wells and oil leases that contain natural gas wells, saltwater disposal wells, gas processing plants, all intrastate underground natural gas facilities, and gas pipelines that directly serve electricity generation on the electricity supply chain map.
The RRC’s Critical Infrastructure Division inspectors based in regional offices across the state will begin inspections December 1. Inspections will begin by prioritizing wells and other natural gas infrastructure that produce, store, process, or transport large volumes of natural gas. The RRC will further prioritize inspections in descending order in accordance with a facility’s production volume or storage, processing, or transportation capacity.
“These new rules ensure our state’s natural gas supply chain is prepared for extreme heat and freezing cold,” said RRC Chairman Wayne Christian. “These rules will ensure that the natural gas facilities Texans rely on for reliable energy are operational when we need it most,” continued Christian. “However, as Texas adds 1,000 new residents a day, the long-term solution to meeting our state’s energy needs must include building more reliable and affordable natural gas-fired electric generation. Our current facilities are prepared for the next weather emergency, but we must make sure there are enough of them to meet the energy demands of our growing state.”
“The adoption of Statewide Rule 3.66 today represents the culmination of countless hours of work by agency staff, industry leaders, and stakeholder groups,” said RRC Commissioner Christi Craddick. “This rule provides regulatory certainty to the natural gas industry and peace of mind to Texans who rely on this important natural resource. I am especially grateful to agency staff for their tireless efforts on this important accomplishment.”
“The natural gas supply chain is comprised of many individual pieces, each with their own unique challenges and vulnerabilities in the face of extreme weather,” said RRC Commissioner Jim Wright. “Today’s rule is focused on preparation, planning, and communication and requires those critical facilities on the Electricity Supply Chain Map to review their operations, identify potential vulnerabilities, and have plans and procedures in place to fortify assets and maintain operations during extreme weather.”
Fines for administrative violations could reach up to $1 million. Operators who intentionally disregard the weatherization rule will not get away with paying a low penalty. The penalty structure in the rule places a stiff enforcement action for those who do not properly prepare their facilities for weather emergencies.
Statewide Rule 3.66 requires facilities representing a large portion of daily natural gas supply in Texas to be prepared to operate during weather emergencies. The final rule adopted today took into account public comments on the proposed rule; the Commission responded to the comments in the preamble.
The weatherization rule can be found on the RRC website at https://www.rrc.texas.gov/media/c5hdc4ga/rule-3-66.pdf.
About the Railroad Commission:
Our mission is to serve Texas by our stewardship of natural resources and the environment, our concern for personal and community safety, and our support of enhanced development and economic vitality for the benefit of Texans. The Commission has a long and proud history of service to both Texas and to the nation, including almost 100 years regulating the oil and gas industry. The Commission also has jurisdiction over alternative fuels safety, natural gas utilities, surface mining and intrastate pipelines. Established in 1891, the Railroad Commission of Texas is the oldest regulatory agency in the state. To learn more, please visit https://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.