Texas halts natural gas exports as states scrambles to end power outages

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has ordered energy companies to temporarily suspend out-of-state sales of natural gas, amid ongoing power outages triggered by a deadly winter storm.

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Residents line up to enter a warming center and shelter after record-breaking winter temperatures knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of Texans, in Galveston, Texas, February 17, 2021.
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The governor announced during a media briefing on Wednesday that he had issued a decree forbidding gas producers from selling to clients outside the state through February 21. 

Citing the current weather crisis that has crippled the state, Abbott said the order would help increase the ability of gas-fired generators at a time when surging demand has overwhelmed Texas’ power grid. 

Around 1.7 million Texans are still without electricity after freezing temperatures knocked out much of the state’s energy infrastructure. Dan Woodfin, a senior official at Texas grid operator ERCOT, said in an interview that the lack of gas supply has hampered efforts to get power plants working again. 

However, it’s unclear whether Abbott has the authority to prevent gas from leaving his state. The move could potentially be a violation of trade agreements with Mexico, which is heavily reliant on energy imports from Texas. In a letter to the state’s energy regulator, Abbott explained that gas should be made available to local power generators before it is shipped out-of-state. 

Texas and multiple other US states have been battling frigid temperatures over the past few days. The extreme weather has been linked to at least 20 deaths across the country. 

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