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A Message from AAPL President, Lester A. Zitkus, CPL: Texas Power Outage

Dear fellow AAPL member,

As if we needed another test of our perseverance. Texans across most of the state had another “once in a lifetime” experience when frigid weather and snow blanketed the state for a four- or five-day period in mid-February. AAPL’s Governmental Affairs Manager Russell Cohen put together a white paper of facts and figures related to the circumstances surrounding the loss of power supply across the ERCOT managed power grid in Texas and what led to broad outages for many Texans. A link to the white paper is attached here, and it is also posted on our AAPL website under Advocacy and Legal.

Stating the obvious, Texans — and the nation — learned how fragile the Texas energy grid could be when faced with snow, freezing rain and extended subfreezing temperatures. It was a painful reminder of how incredibly valuable a dependable, reliable supply of natural gas is to the state and how critical it is to have an effectively designed infrastructure in place to deliver the natural gas needed to power generating plants, municipalities and residences.

As we have seen play out in the media and political arenas, there is no shortage of finger pointing, accusations of negligence and allegations of poor preparedness by multiple public and private agencies, source generation facilities, pipeline operators and power plant owners/operators. However, I do believe we can focus not only on the lessons learned but also point out some of the positives that should be highlighted from such a tragic series of events.

Undoubtedly, there were failings across the board, and those failings were not limited to just reliance — or overreliance as some have suggested — on renewable energy sources. There were plenty of challenges created by natural gas supply disruptions due to freeze-offs, low line pressure and compression facility failures, in addition to natural gas power plant failures. However, learning now that the entire Texas energy grid was within minutes of a total catastrophic failure were it not for the ability to keep natural-gas-powered generation moving across the grid at the most critical periods of time needs to serve as a sobering reminder to us all — including our elected state and federal officials, as well as environmentalists — that we must continue to develop a comprehensive strategy to meet our nation’s growing energy needs, which should include a continued emphasis on natural gas supply development and infrastructure.

One of the many important data points in the AAPL issued white paper is that during the worst periods of grid outages in Texas, power generation from some natural gas plants increased by a whopping 450%. To suggest we could meet current and future energy demand — especially during significant weather events as was the case in February — exclusively through renewable energy sources will only set us up for a repeat of the type of circumstances that Texas has had to deal with.

The backdrop to all of this is the fact that our profession, the land profession, has and will continue to play a critical role in helping not only Texas, but our nation, develop projects to serve our growing need for clean, affordable, reliable energy. The role of the land professional is often referred to as “the point of the spear” on getting projects started through preliminary title work and site assessments, and then propelling them forward through the negotiation and acquisition of the necessary rights for the location of facilities, routes of ingress and egress, surface use agreements for staging areas all the way through the actual construction and completion phases, including negotiating the necessary rights to transport the energy — regardless of source — to the interstate/intrastate or end-user markets. Other than land, few professions have the level of involvement working on projects to solve our energy needs across the spectrum of renewable and traditional sources of energy.

The employment opportunities for our profession are changing as the energy mix is changing. The skill sets that are so critical for success in the oil and gas industry are also critical to the needs of the renewable energy industry. The land profession is challenging and, in many ways, rewarding, both personally and financially, where one can leverage their skills in entrepreneurialism and problem solving.  What could be a more gratifying, noble — and secure — cause than to serve as a professional in an ever-growing energy industry without being dependent on any one segment as many of us have been in the past.

We should do all we can to educate the public, career-minded college students and elected officials that our profession has the skills to support the development of a comprehensive energy portfolio to supply our nation with clean, reliable and affordable energy for years to come.

Respectfully,

Lester A. Zitkus, CPL
President, American Association of Professional Landmen