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Natural Gas Price Spike Led Minnesota Lawmakers to file New Bill

The last month’s severe cold in the Southern U.S. will result in higher Natural Gas bills for a massive swath of Minnesotans. In response, a pair of Minnesota lawmakers have introduced a new bill at the Legislature to help low-income class people shoulder the extra costs. After the February polar vortex, the new measure will distribute $100 million to qualifying customers and another $15 million on a loan fund to the municipality for the utility companies facing a budget crunch.

Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, and Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, are sponsoring the bill. The bill is scheduled for a Senate hearing on Thursday after receiving a House hearing Wednesday. The measure might slash home heating bills for customers, but it probably won’t offset costs for all Minnesota’s Natural Gas customers. Some people could see a rise of hundreds of dollars in their bills.

A $500 million bill is expected by CenterPoint Energy alone in Minnesota because of the crisis. A staggering amount of money is unlikely to cover the Legislature. In an interview on Wednesday, Long said about his bill, “This just dwarfs the scale of anything that we have in place to protect those (low-income) folks, so that’s a really urgent need.”

The new surcharge on heating bills being received by Minnesota customers is due to the cold weather somewhere else. When an arctic freeze hit Texas during mid-February, the Natural Gas supply in the region seized up as demand skyrocketed. This caused the prices to increase. The Minnesota utilities buy plenty of gas ahead of time on fixed contracts. However, some of the gas is purchased over the short term because of the lower prices.

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