ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- More Coloradans are getting socked with extra-high gas bills because of the February deep freeze in Texas.
Notes warning of "historically" high invoices were posted on the front doors of individual apartments at Bell Cherry Hills in Englewood this week.
"February 2021 was a particularly volatile month for natural gas prices," the note said. "Historic levels of cold concentrated in the heavy natural gas production areas of Colorado, Texas and Oklahoma caused significantly higher demand of natural gas for heating and electricity production. At the same time, the unusually severe cold resulted in many gas wells and pipelines freezing off, prohibiting any production or transmission of natural gas to end users. Additionally, significant parts of Texas' electric grid went offline and caused most gas compressor stations and other systems vital for gas distribution to go offline as well. The result was historic levels of demand and significantly lower volumes of natural gas making it into the market, resulting in historically high prices."
Alana Aragon told Denver7 the note posted on her front door did not indicate how much the final bill would be, so she asked at the front office.
"They said it could be around $200 extra, on top of what we're already paying," Aragon said.
Fellow resident Cindy Charlton said the notice was posted on her door too.
When asked her reaction, Charlton replied, "I'm not sure I can say the words on TV, but I think it's hogwash."
Charlton said her first inclination is to refuse to pay it.
"I'll pay my $12.57 that I normally pay for my gas," she said. "I pay Xcel Energy for everything else."
According to the notice, Tiger Natural Gas supplies gas to Bell Cherry Hills.
"Tiger Natural Gas was active in the market during this time and unfortunately had to purchase gas for customer's accounts at historically high prices," the notice stated. "As such, you can expect your February 2021 invoices, paid with May 2021 rent, to be historically high. We do not expect continuing effects related to this event."
"I don't know who Tiger is," Charlton said. "I was told in the letter that it is was because of Texas and that we had been having to help with that situation, paying those bills, and I'm thinking no."
She said Texas leadership made decisions that impacted people all over the country, and that she's not paying for their "stupidity."
Aragon said she wasn't even home when the polar cold front moved clear down to Texas.
"I usually set my thermostat to 68 or 69 when I travel out of town," she said.
She said she too is unfamiliar with Tiger Natural Gas.
"I looked at my lease and thought, I must not have realized that I'm paying this gas company. When I searched for the word tiger, which is the company mentioned in the letter, nothing came up. I searched the word gas, the addendum comes up for our gas and water, and a different company NWP."
When asked what she makes of that, Aragon replied, "That our gas is passing through several different companies to get to us, and even what we utilize doesn't matter, apparently. It's just very confusing. Also the cost is being passed off to the customer which in this case is Bell Cherry Hills, who is then passing it off to the residents and there is no regulation on this, apparently."
She said she has some advice for anyone renting in Colorado.
"Pay attention to what you're signing in your lease," she said. "Ask them questions about your utilities. I made an assumption that because I was paying Xcel, (for electricity) that's who I was paying (for gas,) and in this case, that's not true, and I had no clue that anything like this could happen."
Denver7 reached out to Bell Cherry Hills to see of they'd work with tenants who may not be able to pay the entire bill at once.
The front office phone was forwarded to a 24/hour answering center, where employees said to call the Bell Cherry Hills front office.
We went to the Bell Cherry Hills office where the manager on duty said she couldn't answer our questions and suggested we contact corporate headquarters.
We sent them an email and are still awaiting a reply.
Denver7 first reported on high natural gas prices in early April, when north Capitol Hill resident. Monica Plimack. said her gas bill, which is normally about $30/month, shot up to $725/month.
The Cripple Creek - Victor School's normal winter bill is about $6,500. It shot up to $45,000 in February.
"I think state senators need to look into this matter," said Questa Walker, a tenant at Bell Cherry Hills. "It's political."
There are growing calls for the Public Utilities Commission to regulate third party gas retailers, not just the major utilities.