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Winter gas bill from hell: Oklahomans face paying $1.4B over snowstorm

Customers saddled with paying 600 times the usual price for energy, as regulators are accused of being too close to the industry they monitor

Plows drive down a road during a winter storm on Feb. 14, 2021, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki) By Miranda Green for Floodlight and Paul Monies for Oklahoma Watch

When Neil Crittenden heard that an extreme winter storm was about to hit Oklahoma, he did what officials advised him to do and kept his heat on and water running so that his pipes wouldn’t freeze.

The 40-year-old Oklahoma City resident even used hair dryers to keep them thawed. What he didn’t know at the time was that the energy he used was going to cost him significantly. As winter storm Uri swept across the south central U.S. last February, utilities that weren’t prepared scrambled. The storm caused blackouts in several states and resulted in the deaths of at least 223 people.

Oklahoma’s gas supply was in dire straits, with demand surging and the cold freezing critical equipment. To keep the heat on, the state’s biggest gas company, Oklahoma Natural Gas, made a last-minute decision: It purchased fuel from the wildly expensive spot market at nearly 600 times the usual price.

Now, nearly a year later, officials say residents like Crittenden have to foot the entire $1.37 billion bill. READ MORE

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