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House and Senate Energy Committees hold joint hearing to examine impacts of recent spike in natural gas prices

Friday, February 26, 2021

SAINT PAUL, Minn. – Today, the House Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee and the Senate Energy and Utilities Finance and Policy Committee held a joint hearing to examine how a nationwide spike in natural gas prices may impact Minnesotans.  

“Utility bills may increase significantly because of the extraordinary recent spike in natural gas prices,” said Rep. Jamie Long (DFL – Minneapolis), the chair of the House committee. “This would exacerbate the difficulties many families and small businesses are already experiencing from the pandemic. We are exploring ways our state can help utilities manage this crisis and mitigate the impact on Minnesotans, particularly the most vulnerable. We must work together to protect Minnesotans’ economic security and prevent similar crises in the future.” 

Demand for natural gas increased significantly last week due to a cold wave in the southern United States. As a result, the cost of natural gas skyrocketed. Costs climbed even higher when unwinterized infrastructure in Texas and other states froze, reducing the supply of natural gas. While Minnesota’s infrastructure held up well during this period despite subzero temperatures, most of the state’s utilities had to purchase a portion of their gas at a much higher price than anticipated. This cost will later be passed on to consumers, which means Minnesotans may see their heating bills increase.  

Customers of CenterPoint Energy, Minnesota’s largest gas provider, will see additional charges of $300 to $400. Xcel Energy customers will face additional charges of $250 to $300. Municipal utility customers will face charges of $250 to $500. Customers of large, investor-owned utilities will see an impact on their bills starting this September. Municipal utility customers could face these consequences as soon as next month.  

Legislators heard testimony from Grace Arnold, Temporary Commissioner of the Department of Commerce; Attorney General Keith Ellison; Katie Sieben, Chair of the Public Utilities Commission; Joe Sullivan, Member of the Public Utilities Commission; Bob Harding, Financial Unit Supervisor of the Public Utilities Commission; Kent Sulem, Municipal Utility Association; Jack Kegel, Executive Director of the Municipal Electrical Association; Brad Tutunjian, Vice President of Minnesota Operations at CenterPoint Energy; and Amy Liberkowski, Pricing and Analysis at Xcel Energy.  

More information, including documents from the hearing, is available on the House committee’s webpage and the Senate committee’s webpage. Video of the hearing will be available on House Public Information’s YouTube channel and Senate Media Services’ YouTube channel.