State leaders are worried some sellers of natural gas may have taken advantage of utilities' desperation to heat Oklahomans' homes and illegally raised their prices.
During more than a week of bitterly cold winter weather, utility companies’ normal supplies of natural gas dried up. The demand for more energy skyrocketed and so did the price.
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt declared a state of emergency for all 77 counties which also triggered a law that prohibits prices on goods and services from being raised more than 10%.
In a Monday press conference, Attorney General Mike Hunter said some gas sellers may have raised their prices above the ceiling.
"To the extent that we discover market manipulation in which entities have taken advantage of the suffering of Oklahomans, we’re going to hold those entities responsible," said Hunter.
Gas prices were going up before utilities began to have trouble finding more. Some of the higher costs utilities paid for natural gas during the emergency are expected to be passed down to most Oklahomans gradually over time.
Hunter said the state is working with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to figure out ways to mitigate the impact of utility bill spikes.
Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner said unregulated electric providers such as the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority, the Grand River Dam Authority and rural electric cooperatives have also committed to spreading out costs for their customers over time.
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