DENVER — Texas got hit with the worst weather on President's Day weekend last February, but now, many Coloradans are also paying the price.
Contact Denver7 is hearing from customers facing bills that are hundreds or thousands more than their usual bills.
Full disclosure: Denver7 is one of those customers. The station's March bill from Symmetry is almost double our average bill.
Watch the video above to see what Contact Denver7's Jaclyn Allen found out about state regulators investigating what went wrong and how more Colorado utilities are looking to pass the costs from the storm on to customers.
"I'm retired, and I live on Social Security and savings," said Monica Plimack, who said her gas bill usually averages about $30 per month.
When she received her March bill, it was $725.40
"I thought it was a mistake," said Plimack.
Contact Denver7 has learned that Plimack is one of many Coloradans getting extreme gas bills tied to the President's day deep freeze in Texas (Winter Storm Uri), which increased demand while decreasing supply.
At Foothills Animal Shelter, one day of heat during that three-day rate surge cost them nearly $6,000. In total, the March tab was $21,000 — seven times higher than their usual bill.
"Shocked and worried and really upset," said Connie Howard, the executive director, who said that if they had had any warning, they could have turned down heat int he offices and garage over that weekend.
Plimack is just learning that her homeowners association uses the gas supplier Symmetry, which is not regulated by the state. Foothills Shelter uses Woodriver Energy, which is also not regulated.
Those companies do not have to go through the Public Utilities Commission before passing along costs to consumers.
But at the same time, Colorado regulators tell Contact Denver7 that Colorado utility companies (which are regulated in the state) are also trying to recover costs from that storm. For example, Xcel has requested passing on up $180 per customer over a two-year period.
Meanwhile, Governor Polis is concerned that utilities may have failed to take "common-sense measures," stating in a letter to the PUC that "consumers should not be expected to shoulder unexpected exceptional costs without first being advised to reduce usage."
Plimack said she certainly would have changed her behavior if she had known the costs.
"I could have turned off this fireplace very easily had I been warned," Plimack said.
In response to Contact Denver7's request for comment Symmetry released this statement:
“The price of natural gas is set by the market, not Symmetry. Symmetry does not produce natural gas. As a retail natural gas marketer, Symmetry incurs supply costs largely at the time of purchase and appropriately passes these costs along to customers per contracts and rate agreements. Symmetry has been, and is, in regular communication with customers regarding natural gas pricing as a result of the severe weather and will continue to work with the industry and with our customers. Importantly, the considerable increase in demand, coupled with a severe reduction in supply, was a market-wide event and virtually all industry participants were impacted – not just Symmetry
Meanwhile, after word got out about Foothills Animal Shelter's $21,000 bill, WoodRiver energy agreed to a 20 percent discount, a payment plan and a fixed-rate contract.
"I think there's a lot that needs to change," said Howard, who said as soon as the contract ends, she plans to find a provider regulated by Colorado. "I think most of us just take it for granted that in some way we're protected. You know that Xcel is regulated in the state, but these other companies are not. And there needs to be some transparency around that."
Plimack paid her $725 bill with her stimulus check, money she had been dreaming of spending on anything but her gas bill.
"It is gouging and and people should complain," she said.
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