January 5, 2023
Mr. Kevin Akers, President and CEO
5430 LBJ Freeway
Dallas, TX 75240
Dear Mr. Akers:
I write to you today with serious concerns regarding Atmos Energy’s continued inability to supply adequate natural gas service to my constituents in House District 101, as evidenced by widespread gas shortages on December 22-23, 2022.
Amid last month’s freezing temperatures, low gas pressure caused residents in Grand Prairie and Arlington to lose gas service, meaning they had no means to heat their homes during dangerously cold temperatures. I am especially alarmed that the City of Grand Prairie lost gas pressure to critical infrastructure, including two fire stations. This was beyond an inconvenience – the fire department had to take extraordinary measures to prevent water in tanker trucks from freezing so they could continue to be prepared to respond to a fire.
After hundreds of southeast Tarrant County homes lost natural gas services during Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, Atmos assured customers that their completion of fortification projects would prevent further stability issues. Those assurances were also given to me by members of your government relations team last year, just as they were provided to local officials, including the mayor of Grand Prairie.
I am aware of Atmos’ fortification projects for the Grand Peninsula/Mira Lagos area of Grand Prairie and that those projects are scheduled for completion early this year. That said, local officials, residents and myself were led to believe that there would not be a repeat of critical natural gas shortages in the interim. That was not the case.
Whatever the reasons for Atmos’ continued inability to deliver adequate natural gas to the Grand Prairie peninsula neighborhoods, they do not explain the additional failure to deliver gas to multiple southeast Arlington neighborhoods that I also represent. The Deer Valley, Glenn Meadows and La Frontera neighborhoods of Arlington also suffered natural gas shortages December 22-23.
As a result of Atmos’ inability to provide sufficient natural gas, both the cities of Grand Prairie and Arlington had to take emergency measures and open warming stations for residents who were unable to heat their homes. Both cities, as well as my office, scrambled to keep residents up to date as best we could, given that we were working with fairly limited information ourselves.
For all of these reasons, the investigation the Railroad Commission of Texas has opened at the request of Governor Abbott is completely warranted and I look forward to reviewing your response to the Commission’s inquiry. In addition to the Commission’s questions, I request written responses to the following:
1. Why was there a gas shortage at all? Unlike Winter Storm Uri, which was an extraordinary event that led to multiple system failures across the state, the December 2022 event was a relatively brief cold weather snap. In fact, the DFW area was nowhere close to experiencing record low temperatures. There was nothing especially unusual about this weather event, which raises serious questions about why Atmos had such a hard time delivering natural gas supply.
2. Neither Arlington or Grand Prairie received proactive communications from Atmos. Nor did my office. The only communication that occurred is when we reached out to Atmos seeking answers. When did Atmos realize there was a problem and why were no steps taken to notify and coordinate with local and state officials?
3. After I reached out on the morning of December 23, your government relations officer informed me that Atmos was utilizing CNG trucks to fortify the supply on the peninsula during the shortage.
a. When did Atmos realize there was a shortage on the peninsula?
b. When was the first CNG truck deployed?
c. Did trucks operate continuously on the peninsula until service was completely restored?
d. Trucks operated at one injection point on the peninsula – is this because there is only one location suitable for this purpose, or because there were not enough trucks?
e. According to the City of Grand Prairie, no CNG trucks were dispatched to the Westchester neighborhood, which was also suffering from outages – why not?
f. Were CNG trucks deployed to the affected Arlington neighborhoods? If not, why not?
4. Please describe your company’s communications to residents and businesses who experienced gas outages.
a. Why did Atmos tell the City of Grand Prairie you were not notifying residents about how to report outages for fear of getting too many complaints?
b. Were customers ever formally informed of the outage and restoration timelines?
c. Why did Atmos’ social media posts tell customers to turn down their thermostats when affected customers were unable to warm their homes above 58 degrees?
5. Why did Atmos not prioritize critical infrastructure, such as fire stations, and ensure that those facilities remained online?
6. As outages became apparent, what steps did Atmos take to coordinate with city and state agencies to mobilize a response?
7. Why did Atmos raise no preparedness issues in calls with the Texas Energy Reliability Council, as Governor Abbott stated in his December 28 letter to the Railroad Commission?
8. Did Atmos issue an emergency curtailment notice to industrial users to nearby industrial customers in order to increase residential gas supply? If not, why not?
9. What was the specific reason for the inadequate supply in the southeast Arlington neighborhoods? When I spoke with your government relations official on December 23, he said the Grand Prairie issues were related to inadequate supply relative to demand, whereas the Arlington shortage was due to a “technical issue” that your technicians were trying to figure out. What happened, exactly?
10. What is Atmos’ plan to compensate customers who were without adequate natural gas to heat their homes and power their hot water heaters, ovens and stoves?
11. What is Atmos’ plan to compensate the City of Arlington and City of Grand Prairie for the unanticipated expenses incurred?
12. What, if any, assurances can you provide my constituents that there will not be a repeat gas shortage this winter or in the future?
13. Why has Atmos repeatedly refused to answer basic questions from the public and the news media about this episode – what happened, why it happened and will it happen again?
I look forward to receiving your responses to these questions, and to working with you to ensure this is never repeated.
Chairman, House Committee on Business & Industry
CC: The Honorable Greg Abbott, Governor
The Honorable Christi Craddick, Chairman, Railroad Commission of Texas
The Honorable Will Metcalf, Chairman, House Committee on State Affairs
The Honorable Craig Goldman, Chairman, House Committee on Energy Resources
The Honorable Ron Jensen, Mayor, City of Grand Prairie
The Honorable Jim Ross, Mayor, City of Arlington
Arlington City Council
Grand Prairie Council
Mr. Steve Dye, City Manager, City of Grand Prairie
Mr. Trey Yelverton, City Manager, City of Arlington