Skip to main content
Publish date:

State to investigate spike in natural gas prices due to weather crisis in southern U.S.

Sen. Tina Smith is also calling for an investigation.

The energy crisis gripping Texas is not without consequences for the rest of the country, including Minnesota — where heating prices are also on the rise.

The increase is enough that the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has called a special meeting on Tuesday to investigate the matter. 

According to a release from the Minnesota Department of Commerce, natural gas prices in the state have "dramatically spiked over the past week due to national demand issues," so the PUC is seeking answers from a number of the state's utility companies: Xcel Energy, CenterPoint Energy, Minnesota Energy Resources, Great Plains Natural Gas and Greater Minnesota Gas.

All have been invited to answer questions about the spike in natural gas prices, including "how this will affect customer bills, the extent customer service was affected, and additional questions to assess economic impact for Minnesotans."

The Department of Commerce will represent Minnesota ratepayers at the meeting and present to the commission information on "the economic impacts of these commodity price fluctuations," the release says.

The PUC meeting may be just the beginning of the inquiries into what's going on in Minnesota.

Sen. Tina Smith (D) has also announced that she's calling for an investigation into "possible price gouging" by energy companies.

"While the worst of the crisis has been centered in Texas, the effects have rippled across the entire region, including in Minnesota," Smith said in a Saturday news release. "One such ripple effect has been in the natural gas markets, where natural gas spot prices have spiked, in some cases, to nearly 100 times typical levels."

She goes on to say that the price spikes could also "threaten the financial stability of some utilities that do not have sufficient cash reserves to cover their short-term costs of this extraordinary event."

The investigation Smith is proposing for would look into what happened in the natural gas market — "including any price gouging by natural gas producers and suppliers" — and produce a public report, along with "recommendations to prevent such problems in the future, and determine if laws have been broken."

Her proposal also includes invoking "any emergency authorities available," such as the Natural Gas Policy Act, "to allocate natural gas supplies at fair prices."

Additionally, she's calling for possible "financial support to the utilities and their customers that may be facing a cash crunch or rate increases as a result of the spike in natural gas prices."

At the epicenter of the weather crisis, in Texas, customers have seen astronomical increases in energy costs, with electricity prices soaring by 10,000%, CNN reports. 

The New York Times notes one resident who kept his lights on during the winter storm — and ended up with a bill for $16,752.

There are widespread reports of similarly exorbitant bills across the state, leading to a public outcry and an emergency meeting between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and state legislators this weekend. 

Investigations into the pricing crisis are now underway in the Lone Star State. 

Next Up

Boebert-Omar - Flickr Gage Skidmore

Rep. Boebert refuses to apologize for Islamophobic comment toward Rep. Omar

A phone call Monday between the two lawmakers ended abruptly.

Patrick Peterson

Vikings place Patrick Peterson on COVID-19/reserve list

The Vikings cornerback said he was vaccinated in August.

flickr - thin ice warning - USFWS Midwest

'Numerous' reports of eager anglers falling through ice

Conditions are still unpredictable, and can vary even across a single body of water.

covid

Minnesota health officials watching closely for omicron variant

Health leaders do not yet know how transmissible or severe the new variant is.

school bus stop pixabay

School bus driver charged in fatal hit-and-run will plead guilty

Another motorist told the driver to call 911, but he instead got on the bus and drove off, charges say.

Franconia Sculpture Park - Lorie Shaull - Flickr

5 outdoor destinations to explore around the Twin Cities

There's something for everyone on this list of overlooked spots.

Child mental health counseling

As pandemic continues, so do efforts to improve child mental health access

Children's Minnesota has announced it will open its first inpatient mental health facility for under 18s.

Dalvin Cook

Report: Dalvin Cook suffered torn labrum, dislocated shoulder

Cook is now dealing with a dislocated shoulder and a torn labrum on both sides of his body, according to a report.

Tanner Morgan

Tanner Morgan returning to Gophers for 6th season

One Gophers QB has already entered the transfer portal.

Allina Health Richfield - 407 W 66th St, Richfield, Minnesota - June 2019 - CROP

Charges: Clinic locked down after man tried to enter, threatened passersby

Staff at the clinic suspected he was intoxicated, according to the complaint.

covid, vaccine

Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Monday, November 29

The state's latest report includes data from the Thanksgiving break.

unsplash - woman sick coughing - CROP

Long COVID: Review of Mayo patients may provide new clues

The researchers summarized three "major novel findings" from the data.

Related

Icicles; frozen; winter

As Minnesotans brace for huge gas bills, state ups assistance to $1200

Texas wasn't the only state impacted by February's arctic blast.

Lake City, cheap gas prices

Gas prices are insanely cheap in parts of Minnesota

The pictures isn't fake. Prices were actually that cheap.

Smith claims Trump Admin favoring red states over MN for federal funding

Sen. Tina Smith calls out the administration in a CNN op-ed.

Here's where you can find the cheapest gas in Minnesota

It's under $2 a gallon in some places right now

Flickr - Monticello nuclear plant - Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Xcel Energy ditches plan to build natural gas plant in Becker

The company also promised a boost in wind and solar.

thermostat

Centerpoint says February gas crisis will cost MN customers extra $354

There was extreme demand for gas due to historic cold in the central United States.