Turner Files Legislation to Keep the Heat On

Austin, TX – Today, in response to December 2022’s Winter Storm Elliott, which left many North Texas Atmos Energy customers without heat, state Representative Chris Turner filed two bills to hold natural gas companies accountable if they fail to provide sufficient gas to their customers.  The legislation would increase visibility into available gas supply and provide compensation to both residents and cities in the event of gas outages.  


“Three days before Christmas, thousands of my constituents lost heat and hot water in their homes because of localized natural gas shortages – that’s simply not acceptable,” Turner said.  “It’s time to bring more accountability and transparency to natural gas utilities, and that’s what these bills are about.”

Turner noted that unlike the electric grid, which posts the amount of electricity available in real time, there is no way to know how much natural gas is available in the distribution system.  During Winter Storm Elliott (December 22-23, 2022), low pressure was only discovered when people’s heat went out and there was no advance warning for the residents or cities who were affected.

The failure to provide gas during Winter Storm Elliott drew ire from many government leaders, including Governor Greg Abbott, who stated, “Substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Atmos Energy either was unprepared for the winter weather system, failed to perform for its customers as promised, or both.”

House Bill 4117 directs the Texas Railroad Commission – the state agency charged with regulation of natural gas – to require natural gas utilities to adopt adequate and reasonable standards for measuring the quantity, quality and pressure of gas in their pipelines. HB 4117 ensures the Commission will have the ability to enforce this requirement by directing the agency to monitor gas pressure in distribution lines.

During the December storm, the cities of Grand Prairie and Arlington incurred substantial and unexpected costs, spending taxpayer funds to set up warming centers, dispatch first responders to check on residents and undertake extraordinary efforts to ensure water tanker trucks in fire stations did not freeze. 

To compensate for these expenses, House Bill 4118 allows a city to file suit to receive a penalty of $1 million if a natural gas company fails to provide gas within the city. 

Finally, as a deterrent to allowing outages – and to compensate residents for going without basic necessities such as heat and hot water – HB 4118 requires that natural gas companies provide each affected customer $100 in rebates for every six consecutive hours they are not able to provide adequate gas.  

“After my constituents were left in the cold, it was clear that the Legislature must act,” Turner continued.  “My constituents do not have a choice when it comes to their natural gas utility and for that reason, Atmos Energy has a special responsibility to reliably deliver the gas we depend on to heat our homes and power our hot water heaters, ovens and stoves. These bills provide the accountability that has been sorely lacking during the past years’ winter storms and will protect Texas consumers.”