ONG Proposes Higher Bills, Hefty Termination Fee to Pay Billion Dollar Winter Storm Debt
Beverly Cantrell - November 12, 2021 12:16 pm
Oklahoma City, Okla. (KOKH) —
Oklahoma Natural Gas needs to pay off more than a billion dollars worth in debt following a surge in natural gas prices during the brutal February deep freeze.
The company is proposing to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission that their customers foot the bill.
“They’re asking for basically 100% of their cost, those costs were nearly 1000 times what natural gas usually costs,” said Eric Jergensen, President of the VOICE Action Fund. “This is huge and this is not particularly reasonable.”
ONG is proposing customers who used natural gas during the storm pay a little extra each month long-term. The average household could pay as much as $7.80 cents extra over the next two decades.
“This is an astronomical amount of money,” said Jergensen. “I will probably be retired by the time I finish paying this off.”
If a customer wants to terminate their service, they would have to pay a hefty fee of about $1,300.
“They want to basically collect the balance due when you disconnect,” said Jergensen. “They’re trying to lock us in to a bad idea for decades with this disconnect fee and that is causing a lot of frustration not just budgetary concern.”
Liza Steger, the PR manager for Oklahoma Natural Gas released the following statement:
“The termination fee is not as a hindrance for customers who would seek to leave the natural gas system. Rather, it is one small part of the securitization process designed to minimize the impact to all our customers as a funds recovery mechanism. The service termination fee proposed within the securitization filing is a way of complying with the non-bypassability requirement of the legislation aimed specifically at recovering costs already incurred during the winter storm event from early 2021.”
Jergensen says his group plans to testify in this rate case, hoping the Oklahoma Corporation Commission will listen.
“These kinds of weather events are not going to go away; they’re going to occur again and we’re very likely to have another weather event like this,” said Jergensen. “If ONG can just pass all these costs on to us, what’s their incentive to get it right next time?”