OKALHOMA CITY (KFOR) – New proposed language in the Price Stabilization Act would add natural gas to the list of exempt goods, opening the door for companies to charge over 10 percent during emergency declarations.

Right now, the law states that prices for goods, services, and other items cannot exceed 10 percent above the price of a similar good, service, or item from before the emergency.

The only exemption is petroleum.

Democrats hark back to the 2021 Winter Storm and argue adding natural gas will only allow more companies to over charge.

“Would you understand that the wealthiest industry in the universe – you’re now aiding, to perhaps get more price hikes,” asked Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa.

“I don’t believe this bill has anything to do with that,” said Rep. Mark McBride, R-Moore.

McBride is the author of the new bill, HB2561.

The Republican from Moore responded to questions about how this will protect consumers by saying he is just clarifying language recommended by former AG John O’Connor.

“I didn’t name it, nor do I have anything to do with this other than adding natural gas as recommended by the previous attorney general,” said McBride.

In February of 2022, AG O’Connor considered a lawsuit against petroleum companies for their high natural gas prices.

But he pulled back because of the understanding that natural gas is a by-product of petroleum, therefore it should be exempt from the Price Stabilization Act.

His request to legislature was to add specific language to clear up the confusion.

In the 2021 Winter Storm, energy prices were elevated which ended up costing the consumer more because utility companies passed their costs downstream.

Democrats argue HB2561 does not protect consumers from something similar happening again.

McBride said the reason for consumers paying higher prices has more to do with utility companies being ill-prepared, than it does with the rules of his bill.

“They could have been more prepared, they could have hedged way before they knew – two weeks before the storm hit,” said McBride, indicating that utility companies should have purchased gas before prices were spiked because of the storm.

Democrats also took issue with separate area of the bill which strips language that defines “commodity markets.”

HB2561 takes away the line, “applicable regional, national or international” when referring to markets.

Opponents said it could lead to companies justifying increased prices for Oklahomans because the price of gas is higher when exported to higher costing areas, such as Europe.

“We’re now in a situation where we have enabled an industry to take advantage – and I won’t even call it a loophole anymore because it will no longer be a loophole, it will be explicit in the statute,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, D-OKC.