State lawmakers are closer to requiring natural gas and power generators to prepare for weather extremes.
A measure that has passed the Texas Senate and is now in the House is the strongest piece of legislation after Texas’ deadly winter storm that left four million people without power, killed 111 people and caused an estimated $80-100 million worth of damage.
Dallas Federal Reserve Bank economist Garrett Golding is part of a team of fed economists that analyzed the financial toll of the winter storm. The conclusion was that winterization steps should be taken to protect the energy supply chain.
"Given the odds of this happening in the future and what we've seen in the past... they do seem to be worth it," Golding said.
Compiled estimates indicate annual cost of winterizing the Texas energy chain would run between $80-200 million each year.
"A few tens of millions in winterization would have prevented hundreds of billions of dollars lost," said oil and gas attorney Chrysta Castaneda, who unsuccessfully ran for the Texas Railroad Commission. That agency and the Public Utility Commission oversee the oil and gas industry and power generation.
"To make sure that our oil and natural gas supply is winterized and protected and able to perform in a storm like we had in February – it’s going to take legislation," she said.
State Senator Charles Schwertner (R-Georgetown) has introduced senate bill three that would change the energy industry.
"It's extremely important. What happened in the Valentine’s Day storm should never have happened," he said. "The entire chain has to be evaluated when it comes to weatherization."
The proposal would mandate all power generators, transmission lines, natural gas facilities and pipe lines be made winter weather ready. Companies would carry the cost with up to a million dollar fine for non-compliance violations.
"I think it’s appropriate and the cost of doing business that they implement weatherization that is appropriate for Texas," Schwertner said.