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Saturday, September 25, 2021

AG Says Winter Natural Gas Price Spikes ‘Appear To Violate Kansas Law,’ Seeks Help For Investigation

The Kansas Attorney General’s Office is seeking outside legal help to investigate huge spikes in natural gas prices this winter, signaling the state could consider suing over the disaster.

Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office announced in a news release Monday that it planned to hire a law firm with expertise in the natural gas market to help with the remainder of the investigation and “any potential civil litigation.” The office has been working since February to determine whether the high prices violated Kansas’ anti-profiteering law.

“State law prohibits ‘unjustified’ price increases for ‘necessary’ goods and services during a declared state of disaster emergency, and on their face these increases appear to violate Kansas law,” Schmidt said. “Our investigation has reached a point where additional resources and expertise in the complicated natural gas marketplace are required.”

In February, temperatures across the Midwest lingered below freezing for days. In Kansas City, temperatures stayed below 15 degrees for 10 days. Most notably at the time, the sustained cold temperatures placed a strain on the electrical grid forcing utilities, including Evergy, to shut off power to avoid uncontrolled outages like those seen in Texas.

But the cold snap also drove natural gas prices as high as 200 times the cost gas utilities typically pay. Kansas gas and electric utilities have filed plans with regulators to pass on nearly $1 billion in those excess natural gas costs to customers.

Last week, the Kansas Corporation Commission declined to issue a subpoena and seek testimony from a national natural gas price index or require a Kansas gas utility to turn over names of its suppliers to the public despite requests from an attorney who said further investigation was necessary before consumers were saddled with the costs.

Kansas’ largest natural gas utility, Kansas Gas Service, has proposed recouping $451 million in natural gas and carrying costs over five, seven or 10 years, increasing customers’ bills by anywhere from about $5 to $11 per month.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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