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February’s freeze could raise Missouri gas bills 15% or more

February’s freeze could raise Missouri gas bills 15% or more

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February’s cold snap could cause a big increase in St. Louis area residents’ natural gas bills.

Gas utility Spire told regulators Tuesday that a typical eastern Missouri residential customer’s bill would increase 15% if it were to recover cold-snap-related costs in a single year.

The company said it would support spreading the cost over three years, which would limit the increase to about 5%.

Potential price increases will be more pronounced elsewhere in the state. Spire’s western Missouri customers, for instance, face potential bill increases of 15% to 25% in a one-year cost recovery scenario, Scott Carter, the president of Spire Missouri, told the Post-Dispatch. Those costs, too, would be diluted if spread over multiple years.

The price of natural gas skyrocketed in February when bitter cold temperatures shut down much of the gas production in Texas and Oklahoma. Ameren, which serves about 130,000 gas customers in mid-Missouri, told the Public Service Commission on Tuesday that it spent $60.6 million to buy gas in February, nearly double the $31 million it spent on the fuel throughout all of 2020.

Spire gets more of its gas from other parts of the country, but it faced a similar crunch. Though the company didn’t specify a precise dollar amount, the utility said its western Missouri operations also spent more last month than in all of the previous year. And the company’s gas costs in eastern Missouri climbed to about 40% of what it spent throughout 2020.

At a PSC hearing Tuesday, Ameren outlined a scenario in which its customers’ gas costs could almost triple, from 37 cents to 96 cents per 100 cubic feet.

Tim Eggers, Ameren’s manager of gas supply, said the utility was “certainly” interested in mitigating the impact on customers through less jarring alternatives, such as a multi-year approach to cost recovery.

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