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'Highly critical' natural gas facilities must winterize; others may request an exemption

A new law allowed natural gas producers to apply for an exemption from winterizing. But some producers will be required to do it.

AUSTIN, Texas — When lawmakers passed legislation mandating power utilities to winterize, the law gave natural gas producers a way to exempt themselves. Natural gas producers could designate themselves as “not critical.”

The producers could file for an exemption with a $150 application fee.

On Tuesday, the Railroad Commission of Texas approved a rule that certain natural gas facilities cannot opt out. Facilities designated as "highly critical" must winterize.

Commissioner Jim Wright said it would apply to more than 19,000 natural gas leases, including large natural gas producers, underground storage facilities and pipelines that directly serve a power generation plant or city, commissioners said.

Commissioners said the designated highly critical facilities can produce enough natural gas for the entire state.

"My agency is dedicated to ensuring Texas oil and gas producers are prepared to operate this winter," Wayne Christian, RRC chairman, said.

"In the event of a load shed like that we experienced in February, which natural gas providers are substantially contributing to the production of electrical power and therefore need to stay on the grid to keep that gas available, the challenge was this: we must keep operators who are supplying large quantities of gas on line," Wright said.

Commissioners agreed any facility applying to be exempted from winterizing will need to prove why they are not prepared to operate during a weather emergency.

Applications will be reviewed by the Railroad Commission.

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