Texas had almost a year to prepare after being ravaged by last February’s winter storm, but nothing has changed. “[Y]et again, instruments froze, output plunged and companies spewed a miasma of pollutants into the atmosphere in a bid to keep operations stable,” according to a report by the Bloomberg Green news service.
The much milder Saturday cold front still knocked out power across the state and caused almost one billion cubic feet of gas to be burned or wasted, according to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. Gas production, unsurprisingly, crashed over the weekend to the lowest level since last February.
The aforementioned wasteful burning of resources resulted in heavy pollutant emissions, primarily a combined 85 tons of sulfur dioxide and 11 tons of carbon monoxide. Further, natural gas is constituted mostly of methane, which is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.
“We know this is pollution that can hurt people’s health and, overwhelmingly, this is avoidable,” said Luke Metzger, executive director of the nonprofit Environment Texas. “These facilities could be investing in better insulation and other kinds of things that would prevent equipment from freezing,” he said. “It’s easier to pay a fine.”
The state has made negligible attempts to prepare for future winter storms. Even though power generators and electricity transmisión stations have winterized since the last storm, gas supply companies haven’t.
The Texas Railroad Commission – a top regulator of the industry – plans to adopt some weatherization standards, which will not even go into effect until 2023. They also allow companies to opt-out of these requirements.
The state’s power infrastructure will likely remain vulnerable for another two years at this rate.
Pioneer Natural Resources Co., Occidental Petroleum Corp., Targa Resources Corp., and DCP Midstream, the primary contributors to environmental destruction over the weekend, have declined to comment.
The TCEQ, which enforces air regulations in the state, also declined to comment.