Oklahoma Natural Gas proposes $1,300 opt-out fee

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OKLAHOMA (KFOR) – Customers could see a small spike in their monthly bill to pay for gas they already used during the Artic blast in February if a proposal from Oklahoma Natural Gas is approved by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, or they can bail out with a lump sum if they want to cut off services.

“They already failed to prepare for cold weather and to keep our, you know, utilities flowing. That’s on them, that’s not on us,” said Nick Singer, with Voices Organized in Civic Engagement or VOICE.

In February of 2021, Oklahoma was hit with an artic blast. Freezing temperatures sent residents to the thermostat to keep warm.

“At the same time, the pipelines were freezing. It drove the supply, drove the demand way up, which means the prices spiked,” said Cheyenne Skye Branscum, Chapter Chair of the Oklahoma Sierra Club.

The spike cost Oklahoma Natural Gas $1.37 billion. Now, the company is trying to figure out how to recover costs through a securitization process, bonds from the state government that allowed companies to repay vendors for gas used during the storm.

“Securitization has really given them a way out and they’re using it in increasingly abusive ways,” said Singer.

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Oklahoma Natural Gas

ONG proposed to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that customers who used natural gas during the storm pay a little extra each month long-term. An average household customer could pay as much as $7.80 extra over the next 25-years.

If a customer wanted to cut off services and move towards electric, wind or solar energy, they could have to pay ONG back for gas already used in February with a $1,320 lump sum fee.

“It’s an attempt to trap consumers and not let them out,” said Williams.

A spokesperson for ONG, who didn’t want to go on camera, told KFOR this is meant to minimize customer impact.

Some environmental and civic engagement groups aren’t buying it.

“They know when these storms are coming, and we’re getting more and more of these; they know that supply is going to spike,” said Branscum.

“It is their job to keep the gas flowing and to keep the power on, and they didn’t do that. And they got caught by these exposed markets and had to pay astronomical prices for natural gas. They should be held accountable,” Williams said.

ONG officials testified it would not charge an exit fee to customers who are on low-income assistance, and those customers are not being asked to help with covering the extra monthly costs either.

Meanwhile, the whole case still has some months to go before a final decision is made by the corporation commission.

A vote could happen early next year.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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