RRC Commissioners Vote to Ensure Supply for Texans Relying on Natural Gas in Emergencies

April 12, 2022

AUSTIN – Railroad Commission of Texas commissioners today adopted a new rule that sets priorities for firm gas supplies and transportation during emergencies such as last year’s Winter Storm Uri.

This latest action by the Commission continues efforts to ensure Texans that in energy emergency events, like Uri, their life-saving natural gas for food and heat will continue to flow.

The new curtailment rule is similar to an emergency order commissioners issued during Uri to prioritize natural gas deliveries for human needs, which in turn helped 99.95% of gas utility local distribution residential customers to maintain natural gas service during the storm. Similar to last year’s emergency order, the new rule also cements gas deliveries to electric generation facilities as a top priority.

The curtailment rule is triggered when a gas utility is unable to deliver all the gas it is contractually obligated to deliver (through what’s known as firm contracts) during emergency events and has to curtail its firm customers. In such situations, the rule sets the following order of priorities for firm deliveries:

  1. Human needs customers and local distribution systems which serve human needs customers.
  1. Electric generation facilities.
  1. Industrial and commercial users of the minimum natural gas required to prevent physical harm and/or ensure critical safety to the plant facilities, to plant personnel, or the public when such protection cannot be achieved through the use of an alternate fuel.
  1. Small industrials and regular commercial loads that use less than 3 million cubic feet of gas per day.
  1. Large industrial and commercial users for fuel or as a raw material where an alternate fuel or raw material cannot be used and operation and plant production would be curtailed or shut down completely when natural gas is curtailed.
  1. Large industrial and commercial users for fuel or as a raw material where an alternate fuel or raw material can be used and operation and plant production would be curtailed or shut down completely when natural gas is curtailed.
  1. Customers that are not covered by the priorities listed above.

The priority list helps ensure the availability of gas for human needs customers, and electricity generation facilities powered by natural gas. Human needs customers include residences, hospitals, water and wastewater facilities, emergency responder facilities, and locations where people may congregate in an emergency such as schools and places of worship.

“The Commission’s curtailment order during Uri saved countless lives by ensuring the 99% of Texans that needed life-saving natural gas during the freeze – got it,” said RRC Chairman Wayne Christian. “It’s vital to have an action plan for emergencies, and that’s what curtailment does. The Commission today strengthened that plan by placing it in our rules and focusing on firm supply and transport of natural gas. This will give market participants certainty of the plan and encourage them to obtain firm contracts, increasing the reliability of the natural gas system in Texas.”

“One of the fundamental principles of the Railroad Commission of Texas is to prioritize the health and safety of Texans,” said Commissioner Christi Craddick. “Through the adoption of our curtailment order, we have honored the mission of this agency by prioritizing human needs natural gas customers. I am proud of the hard work by agency staff and stakeholders to ensure that natural gas is available to those who need it most during an emergency.”

“As we saw during Winter Storm Uri, it is essential that the delivery of gas is prioritized for human needs and electrical generation in emergency situations,” said Commissioner Jim Wright. “Today’s rulemaking updates longstanding Railroad Commission practices to ensure that those with firm contracts have the gas they need to keep our citizens safe.”

A copy of the adopted rule can be found at https://www.rrc.texas.gov/media/3l4bqkuf/adopt-amend-7-455-repeal-7-305-sig-041222.pdf. The rule goes into effect on Sept. 1, 2022.

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 http://www.rrc.texas.gov/about-us/.