TRC Calls for March Conference on Natural Gas
Texas regulators, legislators, industry and consumers will share
a forum in March to voice concerns about the state's high natural
gas prices and the coming advent of deregulation. The conference,
tentatively set for the end of March in Austin, won unanimous
support from the Texas Railroad Commission --- but one commissioner
suggested "less talk, more action" to resolve issues as quickly as
No specific date or time has been set, according to TRC's
Melissa Columbus, but she said that already, staff is working on
the program's details. The meeting would be open to the public and
include "all facets of industry," including producers, the service
industry, gathering and transportation, storage, marketers, local
distribution companies, local and state regulators and consumers.
"The commission and legislators have been taking numerous calls
from consumers throughout the state with their complaints," said
Commissioner Charles Matthews. "We have got to address this issue
and work toward solutions to avoid high natural gas prices."
Several state legislators joined Matthews and the other two
commissioners to testify in support of the conference.
Matthews said the conference would give the commission "the
opportunity to gather information, from the producer to the
consumer, to help develop policy and recommendations to the
legislature this session to use in making legislative decisions on
energy issues, especially natural gas."
Commissioner Tony Garza, who voted to hold the conference, said
that "with consumers facing some of the highest natural gas bills
in recent memory, there's an urgent need to offer answers and
solutions that deal with the problem over both the short- and
long-term." However, he stressed that the initial proposal could be
too "broad," and suggested that areas should be targeted so that
the TRC could "take action and best offer realistic solutions."
Said Garza, "we simply can't get bogged down just talking about
natural gas issues. The commission needs to propose real solutions
that lead to real results."
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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