Oklahoma Lawmakers Debate Consumer Protection From Natural Gas Price Hikes

KOKH - March 7, 2023 6:49 am

When a major winter storm rolls in, Oklahomans are left footing the bill.

We’ve seen rate hike after rate hike from utility companies, and on Monday lawmakers debated the topic.

HB2561 adds natural gas to the list of items that are exempt from the anti-price gouging restriction in the Emergency Price Stabilization Act.

Essentially, it allows the price of natural gas to increase over 10% normal rate only during an emergency.

Petroleum also falls under this statue with previous legislation.

The parties are split on this issue.

While this deals with price stabilization, Democrats are concerned it isn’t helping the consumers using electricity or heating their homes.

Rep. Mark McBride, (R)-Moore, sponsored the bill. He said he doesn’t think it’s the natural gas producer’s fault that there’s been rate hikes after severe winter storms.

“I don’t believe the natural gas companies were price gouging, I think it’s the utilities that were unprepared for the storm, were buying natural gas on an open market when all of the well heads were froze and there was little gas being produced,” Rep. McBride said.

Many providers raised rates following the 2021 winter storm as they struggled to find natural gas sources to meet the demand.

Some Representatives are fearful this will enable companies to take advantage of Oklahomans in a future storm.

The bill passed 81-12 on party lines.

The Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner, Kim David, sent a letter to AG Gentner Drummond asking him to investigate possible market manipulation by natural gas marketers during the winter storms of 2021.

Chairman Todd Hiett released a statement saying in part,

“Upon seeing the news last week concerning the Kansas Attorney General’s action on some of the Uri gas costs from February of 2021, I immediately reached out to the Oklahoma Attorney General. I am pleased that Attorney General Drummond is carefully looking into the matter.”

 

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