As natural gas prices surge, Kansas town pleads for relief

Kansas

WINFIELD, Kan. (KSNT) – In a normal year, Winfield, Kan. will spend $1.6 million on natural gas. During the recent arctic blast, the bill grew well over $10 million in a span of six days.

“How does the community the size of Winfield pay for that gas supply?” Taggart Wall, Winfield City manager asked.

Winfield’s natural gas manager, the Kansas Municipal Energy Agency’s gas division, said that “the commodity of natural gas had reached never before seen price levels.” The city manager sent a letter to residents explaining the city tried to conserve energy by closing schools and factories, but the cost still racked up.

“We took immediate action to contact the system’s largest users and requested immediate operations modifications to reduce the use of natural gas. This included my request to USD 465 to cancel school on Monday February 15th. We also notified all customers via social media and other news outlets to request a reduction in natural gas usage.”

Taggart Wall, Winfield City Manager

Wall adds he has never seen a surge like this. He explained the cost of natural gas is 150 times more than normal.

“It’s not like the city makes money off of this. This is simply just the price of the commodity,” Wall said.

Winfield is now pleading for help.

“We don’t have $10 million sitting here to help with that. We’re asking is our state and federal authorities to step in at this point,” Wall said.

A spokesperson for Governor Laura Kelly said in a statement Thursday, “Governor Kelly is considering all available avenues to provide relief to Kansas communities seeing surges from gas prices. In addition to her conversation with President Biden this week asking for federal assistance, she continues to urge Congress to pass a long-overdue stimulus package providing needed state and local funding to address emergency events like this one.”

Attorney General Derek Schmidt is also looking into the issue. John Milburn, public information officer with the AG’s office shared the following statement Thursday:

“The Attorney General is concerned about these shocking price spikes. Regulation of natural gas is complex, with some authority exclusively federal and some jurisdiction left to the states. We are assessing whether the law provides a role for our office in this matter.”

John Milburn

Wall said if the town does not get some sort of relief, people can expect a massive bill, “For an average residential customer you might be talking somewhere between $2 and $3,000 worth of charges.”

Wall said usually a monthly bill is around $100. He said he’s concerned that the bill could get worse for Winfield, as gas prices have not yet dropped, and is encouraging residents to keep cutting back and conserve energy.

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