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The oil industry has helped select members of the Texas Advisory Group on grid reliability, email shows.

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Groups in the oil and gas industry are heavily committed to selecting council representatives who aim to continue operating energy and electricity in extreme weather conditions, confirmed at the Texas Railroad Commission show. The email was provided to the Texas Tribune.

A council recently officially established by the Texas Parliament in the aftermath of the power crisis earlier this year, the energy and electricity industry meets “high-priority human needs” and “addresses critical infrastructure concerns.” It is supposed to guarantee that. Earlier informal groups could not guarantee that natural gas suppliers could deliver enough fuel to the power plant during the February winter storm.

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The lack of fuel eventually led to more electricity going offline, prolonging the Texans crisis. Millions of Texans lost electricity, heat, and sometimes safe drinking water during an all-day power outage. According to BuzzFeed’s analysis, power outages were caused primarily by the power plant’s inability to operate in the cold, resulting in as many as 700 deaths and an estimated $ 86 billion to $ 129 billion in economic damage. .. Perryman Group, a Texas economic company.

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In response, lawmakers strengthened the Texas Energy Reliability Council with Senate Bill 3 and wiped out legislation passed in the aftermath of the storm. The overhaul will include formalizing a previously loose group of industry representatives into a 25-member council led by regulators to ensure that energy and electricity are ready to meet the needs of the Texans. It included requesting the council to “promote communication and planning.” Biennial report on the stability of the state’s electricity supply.

The revamped council, known as TERC, consists of electricity, energy and environmental regulators and five participants each from the natural gas supply chain and the electrical industry. Representatives of these industries are appointed by state regulators, including the Railroad Commission.

The email provided to the Tribune was named to the Managing Director of the Railroad Commission to be appointed to the Council in August by the Texas Oil and Gas Association, one of Texas’s most influential oil and gas industry groups. Indicates that you have provided a list. The Railroad Commission of Texas regulates the oil and gas industry.

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Two months later, all four top choices in the industry group were confirmed by regulators to the council.

Bob Stein, a professor of political science and expert in political ethics at Rice University, wants the government to have knowledge in this area and need to advise and serve people in the industry. Said. But he said there should be a clear distinction between industry interests and regulatory interests, and that there should be rules to keep the boundaries unblurred.

“We must be able to appoint people who know something about what they regulate,” Stein said. “But that’s who we’re looking for. Is it the general public or the industry? Who do we really represent?”

A spokesperson for the Railroad Commission said authorities are seeking support from “various associations” because their membership represents all aspects of the natural gas supply chain.

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“We scrutinized our experience recommendations and conducted a background check,” said Andrew Keith, a spokesman for the Railroad Commission, in a statement. “RRC believes that each appointee represents the best combination of experience and expertise from the natural gas industry.”

Industry group went 4 to 4 with selected candidates

On August 20, Tulsi Oberbeck, Director of Government and Regulatory Affairs of the Texas Oil and Gas Association, emailed a list of names to Wei Wang, Executive Director of the Railroad Commission.

“Thanks to the Commission for its efforts to implement the new TERC,” said the Texas Pipeline Association, the Texas Independent Producers and Royal Owners Association, and several other influential oil and gas industries, including Texas. Copying the group, Oberbeck wrote. An alliance of energy producers.

“Collectively, we worked together to recommend the attached candidates for the possibility of appointing them to TERC,” she writes.

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The list included four “major” candidates for the location of each market segment of the council (excluding regional gas distribution), as well as alternative candidates.

In contrast, the Public Utility Commission of Texas is responsible for appointing market representatives for the electricity sector at the council and has solicited applications through official documents. Executive Director Thomas Gleason directed applicants in mid-September, requesting letters, qualifications, resumes and letters of interest.

Some industry associations, such as the Texas Electricity Association, an industry association of utilities, have recommended candidates for PUCT, but not all of the nominations have been selected and the agency has received some self-recommendations. , Some of them have been appointed to the council.

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The Texas Oil and Gas Association said in a statement that the Railroad Commission called on industry groups to provide joint recommendations to market appointees. The group is best suited to make those recommendations.

“The criteria for recommendations to TERC were people with a deep understanding of the complexity of natural gas systems,” Oberbeck said through a spokeswoman. She said TXOGA and other oil and gas industry groups held conference calls to discuss council recommendations.

“The industry that proposes the members who are most familiar with how to make this system work in dire situations is not only appropriate, but also essential to ensure preparations for this winter,” Oberbeck said. rice field.

The new member recommended by TXOGA and confirmed by the Railroad Commission is Jason Herrick, president of Pantera Energy, an Amarillo-based well and gas well drilling and operator. Grant Ruckel, Vice President of Government for Energy Transfer, one of the largest natural gas pipeline companies in the United States. Diamondback Energy, Inc., an independent upstream oil and gas producer. Daniel Wesson, Executive Vice President of Operations. Graham Bacon, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Enterprise Products Partners, a large Houston-based oil and gas pipeline company.

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The only gas industry representative not recommended by TXOGA to the Railroad Commission is Keith Wall, who is responsible for regulatory issues for CenterPoint Energy’s Southern Gas business. Wall is on a council representing local gas distributors, often owned by local governments and utilities.

Consumer advocacy groups lack transparency and fairness in the railroad commission process, with some appointees partnering with companies that made a profit during winter storms such as energy transfers. Said.

Virginia Palacios, Executive Director of the newly formed Texas Environment and Consumer Commission Shift, said: Changes in group targeting at the Railroad Commission. “People who have benefited most from this catastrophe will be sitting in this. [council].. “

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Agency leaders have a relationship with the regulatory industry

The Railroad Commission has long been criticized for its cozy relationship with the regulatory industry, especially because of its reported economic interests. Christi Craddick and his father, Republican Rep. Tom Cradick (R-Midland), have consistently reported the economic benefits of the oil and gas industry in public disclosure. At a hearing, the two strongly defended the role of the oil and gas industry in the February grid crisis.

Railroad commissioners are elected in partisan elections throughout the state, and most of the campaign is funded by oil and gas companies. Texas law does not impose an upper limit on election contributions for state-wide office campaigns. In 2013, the Texas Sunset Commission, which assesses how well state agencies are functioning, recommended changes to the Commission’s campaign limits. This caused the Railroad Commission’s bill to fail during the session.

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According to a recent report by Commission Shift, an environmental and consumer group, Craddick’s personal disclosure analysis in 2020 reported $ 1.5 million to $ 1.9 million in oil and gas assets, but the past five. Personal or private interests of the year. The report found four cases in which Cladick’s personal finances “looked intertwined with her public affairs” and did not give up on herself.

In response to the report, Commissioner Cladick said he took the state’s ethical law seriously.

“My personal financial statements are fully disclosed in the letter of law and are publicly accessible,” she wrote through a spokesperson. “The laws of the Texas Institutional Review Board maintain public confidence in the ability of civil servants to be transparent and govern properly. I take these laws seriously.”

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Stein, a US professor, said Texas has loose rules regarding conflicts between election funds and government interests because of the influence of the oil and gas industry. He compared it to New York. In New York, similarly loose legislation is the result of a very influential financial industry.

“It’s not unique to the southern or red states,” he said. “It is unique to the state’s dominant industry and economic interests, and as a state we rely heavily on oil, gas and energy.”

The Railroad Commission is currently designing rules to designate certain natural gas facilities as “critical.” This is a designation to prevent power companies from shutting down power to critical facilities in the event of a forced blackout that prolongs the power outage in February.

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“Important” facilities should be able to function in a weather emergency, but some legislatures may be able to opt out of the proposed requirements unless the natural gas company voluntarily declares it as “important” infrastructure. I am dissatisfied with having sex. I added that loophole to the law. The deadline for institutions that adopt the rules is December 1.

Disclosure: The Texas Electricity Company Association (AECT), CenterPoint Energy, Rice University, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, and Texas Pipeline Association are financially backed by Texas Tribune, a partially funded non-profit, non-partisan news organization. Is a person. Donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in tribune journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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The oil industry has helped select members of the Texas Advisory Group on grid reliability, email shows.

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