Natural gas customers in Texas get stuck with $3.4 billion cold-snap surcharge

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Texans will be paying for the effects of last February’s cold snap for decades to come, as the state’s oil and gas regulator approved a plan for natural gas utilities to recover $3.4 billion in debt they incurred during the storm.

The regulator, the Railroad Commission, is allowing utilities to issue bonds to cover the debt. As a result, ratepayers could see an increase in their bills for the next 30 years.

During the winter storm, natural gas prices spiked as cold temperatures drove demand up while also depressing supply. Much of Texas’ natural gas comes from fracking, which uses large amounts of water. To prevent the wellheads from freezing, many producers shut-in their wells in advance of the storm. The governor’s office knew of the looming shortages days before they happened, yet the preparations they made did little to alter the course of the disaster.

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