The service interruptions were not due to an inability to obtain natural gas supplies — as occurred during Winter Storm Uri in 2021 — but to capacity constraints, according to the gas utility.
At the urging of Gov. Greg Abbott and others — including city officials — the Texas Railroad Commission has begun investigating Atmos Energy service failures during a recent cold blast.
The Dallas-based utility has acknowledged that 2,306 customers lost service during the Dec. 22-26 cold weather event. Atmos customers also reported long telephone wait lines as they attempted to contact customer service representatives.
In response to those service interruptions and customer complaints, Gov. Abbott on December 28 sent letters to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Railroad Commission Chair Christi Craddick calling upon their respective agencies to investigate the utility’s “failure to prepare for the winter weather.” Abbott called Atmos’s conduct “unacceptable.” Similarly, the mayor and city manager of Grand Prairie on December 28 called for action from the Railroad Commission. In correspondence to the agency, the city officials noted that a Grand Prairie fire station lost gas pressure, and that Atmos failed to provide timely information about its system failures to the city and consumers.
On January 13, Atmos filed a pair of responsive documents with the Railroad Commission — one relating to inquiries from Grand Prairie, the other relating to inquiries from the Railroad Commission itself. In both, Atmos highlighted its emergency planning activities, including the placement of compressed natural gas in strategic areas to serve as backup supply. It also highlighted its communication efforts.
However, “going forward, we recognize the need to have even more robust contingency planning and to enhance our redundant capabilities,” Atmos stated in response to the information request from the Railroad Commission.
The company noted that the interruptions were not due to an inability to obtain natural gas supplies — as occurred during Winter Storm Uri in 2021 — but “primarily due to instances of capacity constraints where demand exceeded our contingency plans in localized areas.”
It likewise noted that the service failures did not occur on a systemwide basis. It noted that 2,139 customers from its Mid-Tex service territory reported interruptions, and that approximately 70 percent of reports in that division came from eight communities: Arlington, Grand Prairie, Fort Worth, Benbrook, Cedar Park, Hutto, Leander and Round Rock. It noted that 167 customers from its West Texas service territory reported interruptions, and that approximately 52 percent of the reports in that division came from Plainview.
Atmos stated that “despite having a staffing plan in place that had been effective in past winter events … we fell short for some of our customers who could not promptly speak with an agent to report their interruption or obtain information.” The company said that by December 23 it had added more customer service agents to assist with long hold times.
More about the Railroad Commission inquiry can be found on the agency’s website, under Case No. 00012215.