Kansas Democrats work to get answers about last February’s high gas bills
TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Democratic state officials sat down Wednesday to discuss what they call inaction in the investigation into the high natural gas prices following last February’s extreme winter cold.
Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Rogers said as he has toured the state, Kansans have asked, “what if the cold snap that sent natural gas bills skyrocketing were to happen again?”
He said the fallout from the crisis still remains, even more than one year later.
“This hardship is a huge difficulty for Kansas families, for the communities they work in, the businesses that they own and operate, as well as our cities and our schools,” Rogers added.
Laura Guy, a former board member with the Shawnee Mission school district, said their natural gas bill last February was $1.6 million, but they had only budgeted $600,000 for the entire year.
They were not the only district to take a hit. Guy said USD 437 Auburn-Washburn received a gas bill of $45,000 which was 900% higher than their usual monthly bill of $5,000.
She said schools then had to dip into their operating funds to cover the cost.
“Anything that comes out of the operating fund is less money that is available to pay for things that directly impact student learning,” Guy said.
District 55 Representative, Annie Kuether, (D-Kansas) called it price gouging and said as a member of the House Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications Committee, she will work to get answers.
“We recently passed a near unanimous resolution denouncing the price gouging and market manipulation and called for investigations into the extraordinary price increases during winter storm Mary,” she added.
However, Kuether and Rogers claim there is a lack of action by Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt to investigate the sudden increase in prices.
“That’s what we’re asking, why hasn’t the investigation started? As far as we know, the attorney general is just still seeking outside counsel,” Rogers continued saying, “We don’t know the results of that and have not heard anything.”
Kuether added, “This is an issue that doesn’t have a party. This is an issue for the people of Kansas. We are sitting here not having any kind of answer or information saying, well, we’re on it. We’re working for you, we’re working to get an answer.”
Schmidt’s office tells 13 NEWS that counsel with specialized expertise has been retained following a request for proposals, as required by law. They added that the investigation is active and ongoing.
If the state determines price gouging or market manipulation did occur, Rogers said communities can use the money from a potential settlement or refund toward paying off loans they took out to cover the high gas bills.
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