Legal Memorandum: Retirement of Utilities in TX

Issue: What are the legal obligations for a company upon the retirement of power plants, transmission lines, and gas pipelines used in Texas?

Area of Law: Environmental Law
Keywords: Retirement of utilities; Legal obligations; Power plants, transmission lines, and gas pipelines
Jurisdiction:  Texas
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Tex. Nat. Res. Code § 91.184 (2011); Tex. Loc. Gov't Code § 212.153(e) (2011); Tex. Util. Code § 121.2025(b) (2011); § 121.2025(a); § 181.005(d) (2011); 16 Tex. Admin. Code § 7.465(a), (b) (2012); 43 Tex. Admin. Code § 21.39(c)(1)(A), (B) (2012); § 21.39(c)(2); 21.39(c)(4), (5); §21.39(c)(6); § 21.40(f)(1)(F); Arlington, Tex., Code § 7.03 (2012); Austin, Tex., Code § 14 11 192 (2012); Corpus Christi, Tex., Code § 49-94 (2012); § 35-155; § 35-130, et. Seq; Dallas, Tex., Code § 36-4 (2012); § 36-49; Fort Worth, Tex., Code § 15-46(E) (2012); § 15-40(D) (2011); Houston, Tex., Code § 40-234(e)(1) (2012); § 40-234(e)(2); Plano, Tex., Code § 6-286 (2012); San Antonio, Tex., Code § 29-166 (2012)
Date: 10/01/2012

Although most of Texas’ regulation of gas and electric facilities abandonment is set forth in its administrative code, a few state statutes were located that pertain to the retirement of long-lived assets.  When the storer of underground natural gas permanently abandons a storage facility, the storer must file with the Railroad Commission of Texas a notice of abandonment.  Tex. Nat. Res. Code § 91.184 (2011).  The person also must file an instrument in the county deed records office stating that the storage has ceased.  Id.

Other statutes limit how local governments regulate utilities’ abandonment of facilities.  Texas municipalities may not enforce deed restriction that purport to regulate or restrict the rights that have been granted to public utilities to replace or remove facilities easements and private or public rights-of-way.  Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code § 212.153(e) (2011).  Municipalities may recover the reasonable cost of repairing damage to public property within the municipality caused by relocation or removal of a gas pipeline facility.  Tex. Util. Code § 121.2025(b) (2011).  However, municipalities may not assess a charge for relocation or removal of a gas pipeline facility on, along, under, or across a public road, highway, street, or other public way.  Id., § 121.2025(a).  The Texas Department of Transportation may generally require the owner or operator of a gas pipeline to relocate the pipeline when circumstances warrant.  Id., § 181.005(d) (2011).

A gas utility must obtain the Commission’s approval before removing or abandoning facilities other than a meter.  16 Tex. Admin. Code § 7.465(a), (b) (2012).  A […]

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