Texas Pols Shocked To Learn Their Bill Let Gas Companies Off The Hook For Climate Change Preparedness

from the you're-not-helping dept

Having covered telecom for a long time, I’ve lost track of the times I’ve watched some befuddled lawmaker shocked by the content of their own bill. Usually, that’s because they outsourced the writing of it to their primary campaign contributors, which in telecom is usually AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter. Sometimes they’re so clueless to what their “own” bill includes they’ll turn to lobbyists in the middle of a hearing to seek clarity. This is, of course, outright corruption. But we tend to laugh it off and normalize it, and the press generally refuses to accurately label it corruption.

There are endless parallels when it comes to the energy sector. Like this week, when Texas lawmakers were shocked to realize their recent state energy bill failed to require that Texas natural gas companies harden their infrastructure for climate change–despite the fact their own bill included giant loopholes to that effect.

In the wake of the disastrous and deadly climate-related crisis in Texas last winter, the state passed several bills purporting to fix the problem. Many, like Senate Bill 3, largely just punted the can down the road, urging for a mapping of Texas’s existing energy infrastructure, and giving the Texas Railroad Commission 180 days to finalize its weatherization rules. None of the solutions, of course, challenged entrenched energy providers, or tackled the core of the problem in Texas: an almost mindless deference to wealthy local energy executives.

At a recent hearing in Texas, lawmakers blasted both the Texas Railroad Commission and local natural gas companies when they realized the latter had failed to weatherize their infrastructure with winter looming. The problem was that their own legislation provided the loopholes that made this possible:

“In a committee hearing Tuesday, Texas senators were furious that natural gas companies won?t have to better prepare their facilities for extreme weather before this winter and rebuked the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the state?s massive oil and gas industry, for not fixing the problem sooner.

?Wait a minute,? state Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, told Wei Wang, executive director of the Railroad Commission. ?You haven?t done it yet??

But the ?loophole? that lawmakers spent the hearing condemning and the slow timetable for winterizing the state power grid were part of legislation they approved during the regular legislative session in the spring.”

Basically the bill in question lets natural gas companies opt out of system hardening requirements if they simply don?t voluntarily declare themselves to be ?critical infrastructure? with the state. This was all but certainly a provision included by the companies themselves and rubber stamped by the politicians paid to love them. More often than not, a politician’s only understanding of their own bill comes from a .pdf provided by the companies that actually wrote the legislation (usually via some sort of proxy organization like ALEC to give it a thin veneer of faux legitimacy), resulting in obvious outcomes like this one.

Reports continue to illustrate the grotesque cronyism and corruption that resulted in countless deaths in Texas last winter. And of course it’s not only a Texas problem. Our mindless tendency to throw billions of dollars in tax breaks, subsidies, and regulatory favors at industry giants while ignoring infrastructure needs in the face of climate change is a country-wide affair. And the wholesale corruption that makes all of this possible continues to be normalized in most press coverage as a growing array of terrible climate catastrophes bear down on a dysfunctional nation.

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Comments on “Texas Pols Shocked To Learn Their Bill Let Gas Companies Off The Hook For Climate Change Preparedness”

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Paul B says:

Re: Re:

Keep in mind how stupid profitable the current system is for the energy companies.

If Demand > Supply, Prices spike, in fact you get paid MORE by letting your systems go offline in the cold for the remaining power you do provide then if you were to just sell power to the grid due to the bidding system Texas uses.

The master plan goes:
Step 1) Hook your customers on stable power
Step 2) Wait for a cold weather
Step 3) Jack Rates up to max
Step 4) Profit!

Anonymous Coward says:

Basically the bill in question lets natural gas companies opt out of system hardening requirements if they simply don’t voluntarily declare themselves to be “critical infrastructure” with the state.

That’s not opting out, that’s a default (i.e., they’d have to opt in to be subject to the requirement). The obvious question is whether they get anything by declaring themselves critical—extra money, for example. Or do they lose anything by failing to so declare? E.g., every city needs at least X amount of "critical" gas supply, and if you don’t provide it we’ll go to your competitor or build our own.

The way the lawmakers reacted doesn’t make them seem very informed, so maybe they really did pass a law that lets gas companies sign up for extra costs with no benefits (to the gas companies) whatsoever. How surprised can we really be, then, that they didn’t? Proponents of deregulation often say companies will do the right thing without being forced, despite the growing mountain of evidence to the contrary. I always thought it was because they were friendly with those companies, although in this case they’re at least pretending to have some mild unfriendlyness.

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That One Guy (profile) says:

'Truly terrible, now about my next 'campaign contribution'...'

I am shocked, shocked I say that there is rampant corruption in that house of politicians.

Yeah, I’m sure that a few of the ‘shocked’ politicians might have honestly been surprised that the companies weren’t spending money they didn’t have to because they’d just voted on the bill without actually reading it but I’m equally sure that a good portion of that ‘shock’ was nothing more than acting, putting on a good show for the gullible to avoid having to address why those glaring loopholes were in the bill in the first place.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 'Truly terrible, now about my next 'campaign contribution'..

Hey yeah, it’s still cheaper, or even more profitable, to have your infrastructure fail, jack up rates for the "emergency", and get around to fixing damage whenever you feel like it, rather than properly protect your infrastructure and maybe even be the only outfit supplying everyone when other companies go down. (Certainly this is complicated due to collusion between supposed competitors, of course.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Truly terrible, now about my next 'campaign contributio

As someone not practiced with legalese whether or not I can isn’t really any more relevant than whether I could spot a loophole in a document written in korean, what matters is that there apparently is a loophole and it’s being exploited or used as intended depending on how you look at it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 2B Fair ?

‘To be fair, it’s unreasonable for POLITICIANS to declare crical/notcritical infrastructure’.

Where exactly do Texas politicians get the sophisticated technical & economic expertise to summarily dictate operating procedures to natural gas companies (or anybody else) ?

Obviously, these politicians are incompetent even at their own primary job — writing legislation.

Politicians (government) routinely perform badly like this across the nation — yet many people demand ever more political regulation of everything.

(some day the government might even be mandating what medical vaccines we all must take)

Why are there no Regulators for all our Regulators ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: 2B Fair ?

…so the politicians pick a bunch of bureaucrats from somewhere to decide what private business stuff is really important and how it must be improved — and then dump a bunch of taxpayer money on these businesses to make it happen.

Why bother involving these middleman private businesses in the process (??)

If the government has the exceptional expertise and money to run important businesses much better — it would be much more efficient for the government to actually own & manage ‘critical’ production infrastructure.
Makes no difference to end consumers whether they directly pay a private business or a government agency for critical services & products.

Full government control of all critical infrastructure sounds really good, right ?

(only possible down side is loss of excessive profits to those greedy corporate fatcats who have long exploited hapless consumers, right ?)

There’s some standard economic term for this efficient arrangement of government control of some or all means of economic production and distribution ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 2B Fair ?

You talk about critical infrastructure as if it is some sort of personal choice.

Again, if you want to play that game, if it ain’t critical infrastructure, it doesn’t get extra legal law enforcement protection, either.

Also yes, governments should be able to mandate things like vaccines in some places and cases. If you avoid coming into contact with any of those, enjoy your sweet, sweet vaccine-free lifestyle lol.

Paul B says:

Re: Re: Re:2 2B Fair ?

This is very often how those boards get formed, something bad happens and we create a way to fix it. The worse the event the more we have to invest in regulation to fix the situation.

So YES, the correct way to select critical infrastructure is to have a group, staffed by civil and power engineers look at what went wrong, propose fixes, or directly get the power to make fixes with tax payer funds to ensure said event does not happen in the future.

Your free market alternative is what? Everyone get generators? Everyone plan independently for this kind of event? Some contract with a power company that includes terms for cold weather events? That costs at scale more money by far then putting some heaters on oil wells, pumps, and making sure you know what industrial users are critical for the power grid and what you can safely shut off (note, they shut power to some natural gas wells because they only knew it was an industrial user with out knowing it was also critical).

Keep in mind, Calling something critical, and giving them money to install heaters is by no means taking over anything or running their business, its just calling out that you need x amount of power generation, natural gas generation etc to work down to x degrees of temp and you, as the buyer, will pay extra to ensure this new level of service.

Rocky says:

Re: Re: 2B Fair ?

Power-generation and delivery in todays society should always count as critical infrastructure for the simple reason that when it doesn’t work society breaks down very quickly which leads to enormous costs to fix the problems, and that is not even touching on the subject of people actually dying because of it.

In this instance, we have companies with a captive market and it’s only natural that they don’t want regulations declaring their infrastructure as critical since that means they must invest in it for little or no return in the short term and that affects their bottom line. And that’s also one of the reasons why they refuse to have proper connects to the national grid since that means regulation. Another facet of avoiding regulation is that they can just charge their customers more when problems arises.

Decrying regulation because politicians and the government may perform badly is avoiding the real problem – political donations from companies and special interest groups with the expectation that the politicians will do their bidding in either stopping regulation or suggesting regulation that is beneficial for the companies/groups.

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: political donations

Geeez Rocky — you totally excuse politicians for routinely acting badly … because politicians are somehow totally helpless to resist private political donations.

Your view totally negates the very concept of democratic government– the rich guys just buy allegiance of whoever achieves elected government office.

It takes 2 to Tango — you can’t buy a politician unless he was for sale in the first place.

ECA (profile) says:


Anyone hear from Tornado Alley?


Total 797 spotted/felt.
598 Under EF 2

After all the screaming you would think the entire Central USA would be Gone.

The team forecasts 17 named storms, including eight hurricanes.

And this season they seem to be above avg. for the end of this year.


nasch (profile) says:

Re: Please, Let me fix that headine for you...

They were WELL paid to both create that loophole and feign that "surprise".

The energy lobbyists wrote the bill, and gave the legislators campaign contributions / bribes to vote on it. I wouldn’t doubt they were genuinely surprised to find out about the loophole, because they certainly didn’t write the bill, and it’s very unlikely they read it either.

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mechtheist (profile) says:

Re: Shlock and Awefully ignorant FIFY

So the climate NOT changing has nothing to do with human input or fossil fuels? Breathtakinginanity. It’s like you’re denying lots of people died. Forget climate change, this has NOTHING to do with climate change, it’s to prevent something that DID happen from happening AGAIN. Folks doing this shit is at least understandable when they’re doing it for profit, it’s evil, but their motivations are clear. When it’s just some dumb fuck ahole who’s promoting this stupidity for their own virtue signaling BS, it’s just beyond belief insane.

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nasch (profile) says:

Re: Shock and Awe

Since the climate isn’t changing

Get with the times, the new right wing talking point is that the climate may be changing but it’s not related to human activity. Get ready for the next shift where they admit it’s because of human activity but it’s too late to do anything about it.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Shock and Awe

It’s like claiming that a house isn’t on fire and there’s no need to call the fire department(and in fact there’s no need for them in general and they’re just a waste of money) when a bunch of people can see the flames until there’s only a few unburned sections at which point the claim shifts to there being no need to call them since there’s nothing left to save.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Shock and Awe

Well, no. China is both the singularly largest carbon emitters and the nation beating everyone else hands down when it comes to the scale and pace at which it’s implementing green energy.

This context is usually lost on people who only want to bray about the Yellow Peril so they don’t have to think about their own misery for a moment though…

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Rocky says:

Re: Re: Shock and Awe

There’s an even better indicator for climate change: The current growing zones are moving north and extreme droughts in the southern zones due to higher temperatures in the summer and changing weather patterns.

We can expect more events like the one in Texas for the simple reason that more energy in the atmosphere leads to any event being more severe. A cold snap can happen in Texas, but now the likelihood that it will be longer and colder is much higher.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Shock and Awe

While the term "global warming" is accurate, it was unfortunate in that it got people too ignorant to understand the "global" part of the message (yes, dumbass, it’s winter where you are but Australia is having a historical heatwave), and that those same people were too ignorant to understand the whole planet (maybe the land was not warming this year, but most of the planet is not land…)

Then, when people switched to climate change as the preferred term that was a conspiracy, not an attempt to get the idiots to understand basic facts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Shock and Awe

"Since the climate isn’t changing and has nothing to do with human input nor fossil fuels"

I await your documented, falsifiable, preferably peer-reviewed evidence that this is true.

Until you provide this, I’ll have to default to believing the vastly documented evidence available that over that time period has proven to have correctly predicted out current climate, and its predictions of the future under the same verified criteria.

mechtheist (profile) says:

"disastrous and deadly"
"resulted in countless deaths"

This same ol same ol BS is really grotesque, it should make any decent human being physically ill just to hear about it. They need to round up these motherfuckers and charge them with depraved indifference, though summary execution would be the better way to go, to make sure they can’t do it again.

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