A North Texas lawmaker wants the state’s largest natural gas supplier to answer for a widespread gas shortage that left hundreds of homes in Grande Prairie and Arlington without heat and hot water in the midst of winter frosts last month.
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, sent an open letter to Atmos Energy on Thursday demanding an explanation why, among other things, the company was unable to contact his constituents and his office.
Turner said he had “serious concerns about Atmos Energy’s continued failure to provide adequate natural gas service.”
In addition to residential buildings losing power, Turner stressed that he is concerned that the city of Grande Prairie has lost gas pressure in critical infrastructure, including two fire stations.
“It was more than uncomfortable,” he wrote. “[T]The fire department had to take emergency measures to keep the water in the tank trucks from freezing so they could continue to be ready to put out the fire.”
Due to the power outage, the cities of Arlington and Grande Prairie incurred contingencies to keep essential services afloat. Turner said he wants to know what Atmos’ plan is to reimburse cities.
On Friday, Atmos did not respond to requests for comment.
Turner’s letter comes after residents of three Arlington boroughs raised questions about how Atmos prepared for the cold weather following a winter freeze in February 2021. Some Deer Valley residents told KERA News that while the company had plans to add direct gas lines to the community after last year’s storm, those changes have yet to be accepted.
In his letter, Turner outlined 13 questions that he wants written answers to, including an explanation for the communication failure.
“Why has Atmos repeatedly refused to answer major questions from the public and the media about this episode – what happened, why did it happen, and will it happen again?” He wrote.
He also pressed for answers as to why the power company was not updating information in real time during the outage. He told the company:[told] City of Grande Prairie [they] did not notify residents on how to report outages for fear of receiving too many complaints.”
The letter also expresses Turner’s dissatisfaction with Atmos’ lack of transparency during the process of restoring service, and concludes his four-page letter by asking what guarantees the company can provide to its constituents to ensure “there won’t be another gas shortage this year.” winter or in the future.
On December 28, Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter of his own to the Texas Railroad Commission asking them to launch an urgent investigation into Atmos’ failures.
Turner expressed support for the investigation, writing that the investigation was “fully justified”.