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.