Kansas Legislators Consider Resolution Against Price Gouging From 2021 Cold Snap

TOPEKA β€” Amid investigations into the extraordinary increase in gas prices during the February cold snap, Kansas legislators are considering sending a message denouncing price gouging in the natural gas marketplace.

During winter storm Uri, natural gas prices rose nearly 200 times what utilities usually pay during normal winter months. Both the Kansas attorney general and the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission have launched investigations into high prices Kansans suffered during the storm.

In response, the Legislature approved the city utility low-interest loan program, allowing Kansas cities to borrow from the state to cover extraordinary natural gas and electric costs. State treasurer Lynn Rogers said without the emergency action, increased prices could have devastated communities across the state.

As of Jan. 1, a total of 54 cities and 1 municipal energy agency submitted applications and $78,409,646.79 in loans were approved and funded. Still, Rogers said, this resolution and ongoing investigations are crucial to Kansas families, businesses and municipalities.

β€œKansans deserve answers as to how these price spikes happened and assurances that their interests will be protected in future events like this,” he said. β€œIf market manipulation or price-gouging is found to have occurred, communities could direct proceeds from potential settlements or refunds toward early repayment of their loans, rather than dealing with the costs over 10 years.”

The cold snap in February from winter storm Uri left Kansas grappling with a $1 billion fallout. Estimates indicate some Kansas customers of Evergy electric company will pay $152.3 million in power costs over two years.

The resolution would also provide support from the Legislature for ongoing investigations in addition to denouncing price gouging.

David Nickel, consumer counsel for the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board, which advocates for residential and small commercial ratepayers before the Kansas Corporation Commission and the Kansas legislature, said it was important to note they saw no indication that state gas producers or utility companies unlawfully profited. Rather, the board believes that price gouging, if any occurred, was at the marketing level.

β€œIt is important to note that natural gas pricing is generally a complicated process, and it was made more complex by the supply disruptions caused by Winter Storm Uri,” Nickel said. β€œIt is a daunting task to sort through these complexities in the investigations.”

During congressional hearings in September, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission chairman Richard Glick acknowledged gas pricing anomalies in Kansas.

The Kansas Industrial Consumers Group β€œagrees there was surely something amiss with natural gas prices during Uri and believes additional investigations by FERC and the Kansas Attorney General are warranted,” said Paul Snider, on behalf of KIC.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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