(FOX 9) - Winter storms that hit Texas and much of the south in February created a natural gas price spike, driving up the price of natural gas ten times more than normal in some parts of the state. Those costs will soon be passed to customers and the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is collecting public comment to better understand the impact.
"We need to know how this is effecting people," Commissioner Joseph Sullivan, Vice Chair of Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, said.
Sullivan estimates the average Minnesota household will see an increase of 3 to 4 hundred dollars on their natural gas bill.
"Say the average bill is 6 to 7 hundred dollars for the year, on top of that three to four hundred more dollars, that’s very significant," Sullivan said.
He says around 70 percent of Minnesota households get their natural gas from an investor provider, like Xcel Energy or CenterPoint Energy. Due to the way those companies purchase natural gas, those customers won’t see those increased cost until this fall, giving the commission time to find a solution.
Right now, the Public Utilities Commission is investigating the price spike to better learn what the economic impact is, if gas providers acted in good faith during that spike, how they can potentially get Minnesotans aid through the state legislature and how to prevent something like this from happening again.
"We have to ensure that Minnesotans are not going to be vulnerable like unfortunately this shows that we are," Sullivan said.
They’re asking Minnesotans to enter public comments explaining how these price increases could impact them. To file a comment, click here: https://mn.gov/puc/consumers/speak-up/.
A majority of the other 30 percent of Minnesotans get their natural gas from municipality providers. In some municipalities, like New Ulm, those costs are already being passed along to customers.
"It has a huge impact on families," Kris Manderfeld, Utility Director for New Ulm Public Utilities, said.
Manderfeld explains their normal monthly cost for natural gas is around 750,000 dollars. In February their costs were over seven million dollars.
"I have been with New Ulm public utilities for 28 years and I’ve never seen gas prices like this," she said.
She said their commission decided to use some reserve funds to lower that cost, but starting in March, they had to start billing customers, giving them the option to pay in full or spread the cost out over five months.
"We felt with COVID, with businesses closing, we felt this was just another thing on top of everything else," she said.
There is currently legislation being circulated in both the Minnesota House and Senate that could ease some of the financial burden on families due to this spike.