The New Mexico legislature has passed a bill calling for an investigation of the natural gas outages that hit parts of the state in February. It was unclear whether Gov. Susana Martinez plans to sign the measure (HB 452), which was unanimously approved by the state Senate Saturday.

Calls to Martinez's office on Monday were not returned.

Labeled an emergency investigation under the New Mexico legislative process, the measure was originated by Reps. Roberto Gonzales and Carlos Cisneros and was passed out of the House of Representatives quickly last Friday. It would create the Gas Emergency Investigation Task Force composed of designated representatives from state government. The measure spells out the task force parameters and actions, and calls for a report and recommendations to be compiled by Aug. 1.

Following energy disruptions caused by a severe freeze in the Southwest which left more than 40,000 New Mexico Gas Co. customers without service, the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (PRC), Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee launched investigations and held hearings (see Daily GPI, Feb. 23; Feb. 16; Feb. 14).

New Mexico Gas customers were among the hardest hit when extreme cold swept through the Southwest in the first days of February, causing well freeze-offs and compressor failures due to power outages (see Daily GPI, Feb. 7). The severe weather curtailed gas deliveries to thousands of customers in New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California supplied through El Paso Natural Gas and Transwestern Pipeline.

The task force is to investigate "how and why" many of the state's rural natural gas consumers were shutoff, the economic and social impacts from that, and determine recommendations for both state and federal regulators on how to avoid a similar occurrence in the future. The panel is encouraged by the legislators to seek assistance and input from both state and federal government sources.

The state finance/administration secretary would head the task force, which would also include the state homeland security/emergency management secretary, the chairman of the PRC and the state adjutant general.

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