Freezing temperatures disrupt Texas gas supply, pollute communities

Gas supply disruptions show continued vulnerabilities of Texas’s fossil fuel-dependent energy grid

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director - Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter, (512) 740-4086,

Earlier this week, gas supply companies in West Texas released excessive levels of pollution on at least 18 occasions as a result of equipment failure and freezing temperatures. Nearly a year after the massive gas supply and power failure during Winter Storm Uri that left hundreds of Texans dead and millions of Texans in the dark, the incidents show that our fossil fuel-dependent energy system continues to be unreliable, polluting, and unprepared for the impacts of the climate crisis. Not only did these incidents release pollution that harms public health, they led to a dip in supply that impacted gas and electricity prices for millions of Texans. 

Even after significant legislative and regulatory changes, the incidents reveal Texas’s continued vulnerability to extreme weather events and the risks of basing our energy system around a volatile commodity like gas. While the legislature made some important improvements in power plant weatherization and improved communications with the public, political leaders have failed to protect Texans from these kinds of events by requiring robust and rapid weatherization of the gas supply - from wellhead to pipeline - and by helping customers manage their electric demand.

Under Texas law, all industrial facilities are required to report excess air pollution events over a certain size within 24 hours. Some 18 gas processing plants, battery tanks, gas treatment facilities, compressor stations and other facilities reported emissions of methane, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and carbon monoxide, among other pollutants. One power plant – the NRG Parish facility near Houston – also reported higher than usual opacity levels from its power plant units due to a breakdown of air compressors, indicating that levels of particulate matter were likely higher than allowed. 

Other companies reporting emission events due to freezing temperatures and equipment breakdown included Kinder Morgan’s Snyder Gas Plant, Occidental’s Antelope and Slaughter  Gas Plants, Targa’s Sand Hills, Oahu and Wildcat Gas Plants, and a series of tank batteries operated by Pioneer Natural Resources. 

In response, Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Lone Star Chapter said: 

“These pollution events are another reminder that the legislature has yet to address the vulnerabilities in our energy system that led to the death of hundreds of Texans in February 2020. The legislature and the Railroad Commission of Texas have thus far failed to ensure that the oil and gas industry is protecting their infrastructure – not to mention everyday Texans – from freezing temperatures and extreme weather that is becoming more common due to the climate crisis. Texans deserve an energy system that isn’t on the brink of collapse everytime the weather gets too warm or too chilly. It’s time to require robust weatherization of our gas supply and actual penalties for oil and gas operators that put Texans at risk, while also we move toward cleaner, safer forms of energy like wind, solar, storage, geothermal and energy efficiency programs.”


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit