Updated: February 24, 2021 11:00 PM
Created: February 24, 2021 10:36 PM
(ABC 6 News) - Heating bills in Minnesota are expected to jump up to $400 from February. But it won't go up right away.
The subzero temperatures and the rare winter storm in the south caused a higher demand for natural gas at prices some companies have never seen before, but Minnesota state officials are remaining skeptical.
Millions of Texans were suffering without power during the unusual mid-February storm.
But those who did are facing thousands of dollars in their utility bills, which include natural gas use. For some reason, the impact is extending from Austin, Texas, to Austin, Minn.
"When we were buying, those gas prices were very, very high," Mark Nibaur, Austin Utilities general manager said.
In Minnesota, utility companies state natural gas prices spiked at least fifty times the average mid-February.
"I sent a letter right away to the Department of Energy over the weekend to find out what's happening and whether we don't have potential price gouging," U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) said.
At her request, the Minnesota Public Utility Commission is now conducting a formal investigation. A hearing was held Tuesday, where members unanimously voted to open the investigation.
"I wanna get to the bottom of that... to protect Minnesota consumers from these price increases that they don't deserve and in many cases, they can't afford," Smith said.
Minnesota Energy Resources, which serves the Rochester and Albert Lea area, stated natural gas prices rose eightyfold.
"It's really important to point out that these charges are not going appear on next month's bill," Alison Trouy, spokesperson said.
Major utility companies state the impact on your bill won't show up until September and the cost would be spread out over a 12-month period. Austin Utilities stated it will revisit with board members to confirm the impact on price and when that could be visible.
For now, companies are crunching the numbers anticipating the final effect on your heating bill and are encouraging customers to contact them with any questions or concerns.
"We'll be here to help them through this process," Nibaur said.
Companies state natural gas prices are back to normal levels.
After Tuesday's hearing, gas utility companies have 45 days to answer to the Minnesota Public Utility Commission. Comments are then request from interested parties within 30 days. Gas utility companies then have 10 days to respond.
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