OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There’s new information about a state investigation into possible price gouging during February of 2021’s winter cold snap.
Oklahoma’s Attorney General John O’Connor originally sent a letter threatening to sue multiple oil and gas companies inside and outside Oklahoma. However, in the last couple days he changed his tune. It appears he has walked back all legal threats made to sue companies that sold natural gas during that same February 2021 winter storm.
“It seems to be another example of politicians that we elect taking little, small steps to help the people that help consumers and then a big jump backwards to protect corporations,” said Steve Goldman with Voice OKC, a consortium of churches and community groups that works on issues that affect families.
It was an exchange in three letters for O’Connor, first reported by local news outlet NonDoc. In the first he threatened to sue multiple oil and gas companies that sold natural gas at inflated prices during the historic cold snap one year ago.
“I think he thought he had an idea on where he could recover money and maybe get a refund back to the ratepayers,” said former Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Turpen. “Then you realize we really are the state of soil oil and toil. He got pushback from the industry, and he listened to them, and he saw they made some points that he probably hadn’t thought of before.”
In the third letter, O’Connor appeared to backtrack when the Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma sent a response. They argued that natural gas is a petroleum product and that O’Connor was taking an opposite stance. The emergency price stabilization act prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent for the price of goods and services after a declared emergency. However, petroleum products are not included, according to Oklahoma’s current laws.
“He misread the statute,” said former Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. “Attorney general fires off the letter, he gets on a conference call, the statutes explained to him better and then he says, ‘Well, OK, I guess just kidding. Now let’s hold hands and let’s all get along and let’s try to work through this statute moving forward.’”
Now Oklahoma utility customers will foot the bill and wait to see who profited last February.
“Yeah, the political system seems to be forcing us to pay these high prices billions of dollars for just two weeks of energy,” Goldman said.
“I think they’ll be frustrated. I think they’ll be disappointed,” Turpen said. “There’s a question about that, but the AG thought he had an idea, a method of getting a refund back to the ratepayers.”
Some are expecting to see this situation discussed this upcoming legislative session, which is just days away.
“It is a true commodity,” Lamb said. “I think you might see some attempts to mitigate or correct that, remediate that, in the legislative session.”
The attorney general’s office responded with a statement that can be read in full below.
“The office of the attorney general has been undertaking an investigation into winter storms since last year. the investigation is still underway. we can’t provide additional details or comments at this time.”OFFICE OF THE OKLAHOMA ATTORNEY GENERAL
The Petroleum Alliance of Oklahoma did not have any public comment.