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Central Texas experienced historic winter weather the week of Feb. 14, with a stretch of days below freezing. Sleet followed snow followed freezing rain, leading to a breakdown of the electric grid and widespread power outages. Water reservoirs were depleted and frozen pipes burst, leaving some without service for days.

Texas Gas Service Paid 22 Times More For Gas During The Blackout. Customers Will Eventually Eat That Cost.

Snow covers the street in a neighborhood in North Austin after a winter storm.
Julia Reihs
Snow covers the street in a neighborhood in North Austin after last month's winter storm.

Texas lawmakers on Thursday heard testimony describing an energy market in crisis in the aftermath of last month’s historic winter storm and blackout. One way consumers could feel that pain is with skyrocketing residential gas prices.

Texas Gas Service supplies natural gas to around 650,000 customers, including many in Central Texas. When gas supplies dropped during the storm, the company had to buy it at higher prices on the spot market.

“Typically in February we would anticipate to spend $17 million in gas purchases for the month,” Shantel Norman, vice president of operations, told members of the Senate Committee on Business and Commerce. "This February we spent $376 million.”

That’s about 22 times more than the company normally spends.

Texas Gas Service is working with oil and gas regulators at the Railroad Commission of Texas to stop that price spike from hitting customers in next billing cycle. But, Norman said, higher gas prices are always eventually passed on to the consumer.

“At some point you’ve got to recover that cost?” Sen. Kelly Hancock, the committee chair, asked.

“Correct,” Norman said. “We’ll be working with the [Railroad] Commission on what that timeline looks like for the recovery.”

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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