State Lawmakers Seek To Alleviate High Natural Gas Bills

The February cold snap is poised to cost Minnesota customers hundreds of dollars more in energy bills, Caroline Cummings reports (1:55). WCCO 4 News At 6 - March 18, 2021

Video Transcript

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: The February cold snap is poised to cost Minnesota customers hundreds of dollars more in energy bills. Now natural gas companies and state lawmakers are trying to mitigate the financial hit. Caroline Cummings explains how bills at the State Capitol would alleviate some of the burden.

CAROLINE CUMMINGS: It was a perfect storm for a natural gas price spike.

- It's a little crazy.

CAROLINE CUMMINGS: Supply disruptions due to severe weather in Texas and a surge in demand in February cost gas companies hundreds of millions of dollars, which will soon hit consumer pockets if there's no action taken to blunt the burden, at a time when families are already struggling due to the pandemic.

BILL GRANT: The gas price spike surcharge will only add to the misery.

CAROLINE CUMMINGS: It could mean an extra $200 to $400 on gas bills this year. CenterPoint Energy wants to spread out payments to ease the financial hit. And state lawmakers are also looking at ways to provide relief.

DAVID SENJEM: Municipal utilities have bills to pay. They're going to have to seek other options if, in fact, we can't make this happen. So there's some degree of urgency to this.

CAROLINE CUMMINGS: The proposal would allocate $15 million for zero-interest, five-year loans to help municipal utilities, and $100 million for low-income Minnesotans, for credits towards their bills. You could qualify under the following conditions, including if you missed two or more utility payments since October 2020.

ADITYA RANADE: The situation presents a significant challenge to Minnesota's residential and business consumers. And we are glad that the Senate is discussing this bill.

CAROLINE CUMMINGS: A Senate committee on Thursday removed $100 million from their bill and left it blank, saying they would agree on a number later on. Still, Republicans and Democrats both agree action is needed to mitigate the looming surcharges. At the Capitol, Caroline Cummings, WCCO 4 News.

AMELIA SANTANIELLO: Minnesota Public Utilities and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commissions are investigating the spike in natural gas prices.