Concerns over massive utility bills prompting action by state leaders


OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Across the state, Oklahomans are expecting a hike in bills because of the extended use, not only thanks to the cold, but because many are at home more than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the arctic blast that had cities shut down across the state did more than increase demand, it caused an overall shortage in supply.

“Gas supply was so restricted,” said The Frontier investigative journalist Clifton Adcock. “There were several well-head freeze offs, pipelines were freezing up, and power companies were trying to get natural gas to fire their generators all at the same time.”

As a result, the gas prices skyrocket, and when a utility company runs out of the amount of gas they have contracted for at a certain price, they have to buy more at the inflated price, or the spot price, to meet their customers’ demand.

“In some places there had been spot prices for natural gas at $1,000 per million cubic feet of gas. Normally that’s around $3 per million cubic feet,” Adcock explained.

He pointed out that the mayor of the city of Jay looked at the increased rates they were seeing through the Grove Municipal Services Authority, and calculated that based solely on that rate, a family of five might have a bill in excess of $4,000.

Buying at that inflated price is something Oklahoma Natural Gas was forced to do, a spokesperson saying in a statement in part, “The customer’s bill includes both the cost for our service to deliver it to our customer’s home or business and the cost of the gas used. The price we pay suppliers is the price customers pay. There is no markup.”

But customers won’t see exactly how that will translate onto their bills until April.

That information runs slightly counter to what state leaders said on Monday.

“We need to understand the vast majority of oklahomans will not see a dramatic increase in their energy bills as a result of these rising gas costs,” said Oklahoma’s Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner.

Wagner tried to reassure Oklahomans that through mitigation efforts, including reaching out to the federal government for aid, and investigating possible price gouging in gas prices, that for most Oklahomans, astronomical bills will not be an issue.

In a statement, a spokesperson for ONG said the company is seeking options related to how gas prices will impact customers, saying,

“We do not set the price, nor mark up, the price we pay for the gas. Customers should prepare for higher natural gas bills because of the increased usage for home heating during the extreme cold weather. Many of our service areas haven’t seen the temperature this low in more than 100 years. We are working with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission on options related to the impact to customer bills associated with the significantly high natural gas market prices during the cold weather event. We have filed a request with the Oklahoma Corporate Commission that would defer extraordinary gas and other related costs associated with the recent extreme winter weather event over a reasonable period of time to prevent those costs from hitting customer bills all at once.” 

You can seek aid with bills through the Department of Health and Human Services here.


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