Natural gas prices draw federal attention
A spike in the cost of natural gas, the result of tight supplies due to frozen wells during the polar vortex, has caught the eye of lawmakers in Washington, D.C.
“I spoke with the White House this week to update them on the situation in Kansas and the Midwest, and urged them to respond quickly should the state request a federal disaster declaration," said Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan)
"Additionally, my office reached out to community leaders across the state to assess their needs and better understand how I can best help Kansans during this time. I will continue working to find federal support to limit the financial strain this event will have on Kansas families.”
The Kansas Municipal Gas Association reported the price of gas moving from $3 per MMBTU to $622 per MMBTU in less than two weeks. That massive increase led AGCO, one of the largest employers of Harvey County, to shut down for two days and issue a letter outlining other cost-saving measures.
In a letter to employees, AGCO of Hesston stated that one year ago the gas bill at the Hesston manufacturing facility was $120,000 for the month of February, but the company estimates that bill to rise to between $2 and $10 million for the month depending on what happens with the price per MMBTU.
The city of Burrton, a member of the KMGA, posted to social media over the weekend that city residents should expect their bill to be between 10 to 25 times higher than normal.
Bills will be higher for all consumers as the cost of gas is passed through. Kansas Gas Service will not give estimates of how much higher those bills might be for the average customer but does acknowledge that the bill will be high.
"We can't quantify at the present what the impact will be," said spokesperson Dawn Tripp. "We will do everything we can to work with our customers. This winter event has been unprecedented."
Tripp said there were "financial resources" linked from the company website, and payment plans would be an option.
Meanwhile, people are bracing for bigger bills.
"In Hesston, there will be residents with bills in the thousands," said Gary Emry, city manager for Hesston and board member of the KMGA. "I don't mean $1,200. I mean multiple thousands of dollars."
Sen. Moran told the Kansan he is working to find federal support to limit the financial strain on families and communities. According to his office, this could possibly include a solution that would allow states to use Coronavirus Relief Funds to assist Kansas families already struggling due to the pandemic.