TULSA, Okla. — While the weather is finally warming up, many are still feeling the effects of February's winter storm in the form of high bills, including the City of Tulsa.
A typical natural gas bill for the City of Tulsa Water and Sewer Department is about $30,000. But for this February, it was a little more than $1 million.
“We budget for this natural gas service every year, but this is well over our normal budget," Wagner said.
City of Tulsa CFO James Wagner said they’re still collecting February bills for city hall and other entities such as police and fire stations. The bills come as the city recently made budget cuts due to the pandemic.
“Things are looking a little better now, financially, but still, something like this will be hard for us to manage," Wagner said.
The city uses a Houston-based natural gas supplier called Symmetry Energy Solutions. Symmetry said the increase in natural gas demand and severe reduction in supply led to the high natural gas prices in February.
Tulsa isn’t alone in having a high natural gas bill. In Oklahoma City, a city representative said OKC believes its bill is wrong and is inquiring with the company. In Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas tweeted this week that the Kansas City International Airport’s gas bill went from its regular $80,000 for February to $2.4 million. Both also use Symmetry.
In a statement to 2 Works For You, Symmetry said:
“The price of natural gas is set by the market, not Symmetry. Symmetry does not produce natural gas. As a retail natural gas marketer, Symmetry incurs supply costs largely at the time of purchase and appropriately passes these costs along to customers per contracts and rate agreements. Symmetry has been, and is, in regular communication with customers regarding natural gas pricing as a result of the severe weather and will continue to work with the industry and with our customers. Importantly, the considerable increase in demand, coupled with a severe reduction in supply, was a market-wide event and virtually all industry participants were impacted – not just Symmetry.”
Here in Tulsa, Wagner said there are still many unknowns, like what to do with the bill, if any state or federal aid will help pay for it, or if it will impact taxpayers.
“We would just kind of have to figure out what options we have, and we’re still working through what those might be," Wagner said.
While cities are seeing an increase in their natural gas bills, Wagner said Oklahoma Natural Gas customers won't see this type of impact.
“ONG is taking a different approach, really spreading out these fuel costs over a number of years as opposed to these third-party natural gas suppliers that we have," Wagner said.
2 Works for You reached out to several cities in Green Country to find out if they’re seeing an increase in their natural gas bills. Some said they are still collecting their bills and won’t know for another couple of weeks.
We will continue to follow this story and bring you the latest updates.
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