Oklahomans avoided the catastrophe that rocked their neighbors south of the Red River, but higher utility bills due to skyrocketing prices for natural gas resulting from the polar cold snap still could have a chilling effect that lingers for some time.
That’s why we welcome efforts of state leaders who vowed on Monday to help their constituents deal with utility bills that otherwise might send their lives “into a frenzy” or force them into bankruptcy. They have been working with many of the state’s largest regulated utilities to cushion the blow of utility bills that could be two or three times higher than usual.
Kenneth Wagner, secretary of energy and environment, said many of the state’s largest utilities promised to try to mitigate the enormous spike in natural gas costs by spreading them out over time. There are some smaller municipalities and commercial users that purchase natural gas from deregulated markets, and those purchasers could face “additional extraordinary costs.
Assistance must be forthcoming during times of crisis, and the extreme winter storm that plunged the region into a deep freeze for more than a week qualifies for aid. State lawmakers plan to investigate any shortcomings that might have contributed to price spikes so they can be avoided in the future.
Legislators’ work should include a focus on investments on the infrastructure necessary to protect public utilities from extreme weather and climate change. Lawmakers also must acknowledge the need for an effective regulatory scheme that holds utilities responsible and more responsive to consumers.
We welcome the help being offered but hope those efforts don’t devolve into a blame game used for partisan maneuvers.