TOPEKA – The Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) has approved a settlement agreement outlining how Atmos Energy will recover $102 million in extraordinary costs incurred during last February’s winter storm. The utility, like others regulated by the KCC, was ordered to do everything possible to continue providing natural gas service to its customers, defer the charges, and then develop a plan to allow customers to pay the unusually high costs over time to minimize the financial impact.
Under the terms of the settlement, Atmos will apply for Securitized Utility Tariff Bonds to obtain the most favorable financing to reduce costs to ratepayers. The 2021 Kansas Legislature passed the Utility Financing and Securitization Act, which allows utilities to use securitized bonds to pay for extraordinary costs at more favorable terms than traditional financing. The KCC will review the plan to ensure the lowest possible bond costs will be passed on to customers. The application and review process could take six to eight months.
Until the securitization process is complete, the exact dollar amount Atmos customers will see on their monthly bills and the length of the payment period is unknown. Estimates range from $3.75 to $5.19 per month for residential customers based on either a 10 or 15-year term. If ratepayers had been asked to repay the charges over a one year time period, the cost would have been an additional $47.40 per month.
The Commission emphasized it was in the public interest for Atmos to incur the extraordinary costs to ensure the integrity of the gas system and ensure continuous service to its customers.
“A lesser response could have resulted in catastrophic property damage and serious public safety implications, including potential loss of life. When extraordinary costs are unavoidable and necessary to benefit the public, it is in the public interest to allow recovery of such costs.”
Today’s order states that any proceeds received by Atmos from ongoing federal or state investigations into market manipulation, price gouging or civil suits will be passed on to customers.
Atmos Energy delivers natural gas to about 135,000 Kansas customers.
Today’s order is available here.
A recording of today’s Business Meeting featuring comments by Commissioners on this order, is available on the KCC YouTube channel.