Minnesota gas bills are up by $800 million; Texas freeze is to blame

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — Minnesota will be facing more than $800 million in extra gas bills. It’s a result of the Texas freeze fiasco in February of this year.

“It’s incredibly frustrating,” Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Vice Chair Joseph Sullivan said. “It’s [Texas] a major supplier of natural gas, but because they did not do the important work in winterizing their systems, much of their gas supply was unable to be accessed because of their poor infrastructure.”

When the Lone Star State’s natural gas system got clocked by the cold, the entire county had to pay the price.

“The price of natural gas went through the roof,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t know it was coming. We just got walloped. We just got hit and there was very little we could do.”

Sullivan says the $800 million is just in preliminary figures. The increase will impact every Minnesotan.

“This was really an unprecedented situation,” Minnesota Energy spokesperson Alison Trouy said. “Unfortunately, no one saw it coming. It was out of everyone’s control.”

Minnesota Energy is one of south east Minnesota’s main natural gas providers, with a heavy presence in Rochester. While its customers will see a price jump, other parts of the state could be seeing much worse.

Minnesota Energy serves Minnesotans all over the state, but has a heavy presence in Rochester.

“Anywhere from 19 to 21 dollars a month for 12 months,” Trouy said. “Starting in September.” She adds that if a customer is struggling to pay their bills, call and they can discuss payment options.

Sullivan says on the high side, customers could be seeing up to a $400 increase on their bills. On the low side it’s $200. It depends on the provider.

“CenterPoint customers will see a different amount compared to Xcel customers,” Trouy said. “It varies based on who your natural gas provider is.”

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has been working to minimize the blow by testifying in support of direct relief for Minnesotans from the state. Sen. Dave Senjem, (R) Rochester, and Rep. Jamie Long, (DFL) Minneapolis, said it would provide about $100 million of direct relief.

“But 100 million is one eighth of the current problem,” Sullivan said. “So, there is going to be an impact regardless. And Minnesotans need to know that and we are working hard to make sure we can minimize it. That’s the hope. To reduce the impact, but folks are going to feel it and it’s going to start coming in the coming months.”

Communities who may get their natural gas from smaller energy companies, like Austin or Owatonna, may already be seeing the gas price spike. Most Minnesotans though, won’t see their bill increase until September.

“This is a terrible time for people to have this bill come down on them,” Sullivan added. “It’s a terrible time. And it’s very frustrating to me.”

While he’s frustrated by the price hike, Sullivan says Minnesotans stayed warm this winter and maintained their robust system, which he says was most important.

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