The historic February cold snap had many Oklahomans worrying about equally historic high gas bills.
Now, state lawmakers are introducing a plan to ease the sticker shock from more than $4.5 billion in utility bills statewide.
“Our utility systems are not built for that type of weather,” Sen. James Leewright, R-Bristow, said. “The cost of electricity generation went through the roof. Natural gas spiked incredibly high.”
Under the proposed fix, state bonds would be issued to pay back utility companies for the gas cost racked up during the winter storm. A fee would then be added to customers’ utility bills to pay that bond back over time.
“This legislation will help manage the shortest-term financial effects on Oklahoma families and small businesses,” Leewright said. “The legislation lowers the total monthly cost for most ratepayers and lengthens and the amount of time to pay off that utility cost.”
While Oklahomans would see a fee added to monthly utility bills, state officials said without the proposed fix, it would be much worse. They said a typical February gas bill, for example, that would typically be $100 would reach near $2,000 without taking action. Under the proposal, they estimate it would be around $160 instead.
Many details are still up in the air including just how long the additional fees would last.
The proposals still must make it past the joint appropriations and budget committee, the state House and Senate before going to the governor's desk.