Kansans will pay more for natural gas this winter

Your natural gas bill will increase this winter as supply issues drive up market prices.

by Brian Grimmett, Kansas News Service

Wichita, Kansas — Your natural gas bill is going to go up this winter.

Natural gas prices run nearly double what they did a year ago and experts predict the increased prices to last at least through the winter.

Utility companies pass the cost of natural gas directly on to their customers. As the price of wholesale natural gas increases, so will the fee your utility charges every month.

For Kansas Gas Service customers, that fee this month is $5.67 per thousand cubic feet of gas used. Last October it was only $3.76.

Other large gas utilities have made similar increases.

The Atmos Energy gas purchase fee this month is nearly $1.50 more than last year. At Black Hills Energy it’s more than $3 more.

“Right now, what we see is a relatively tight market, and higher prices signalling that more (gas) supplies are needed on the market,” said Richard Meyer, vice president of the American Gas Association that represents natural gas utilities.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency said a few things are causing strain on natural gas supply that contribute to higher-than-normal natural gas prices.

First, the amount of gas in underground storage is lower than normal. That’s partly caused by February’s winter storm that set record cold temperatures for much of the central U.S. It’s also caused by increased usage by gas-fired power plants during a particularly hot August.

Hurricane Ida also cut natural gas production and supplies.

While the EIA expects many of those supply issues to get resolved, it said the price will likely remain high all winter.

If it does, the average Kansan could see a monthly bill increase as much as $100 higher than last year.

Kansas Gas Service spokeswoman Dawn Tripp said the company has several tools to help keep the cost of gas down even as market prices rise.

The company has purchased and stored large amounts of gas this summer when prices were generally lower. It also will enter into long- and medium-term contracts to try to lock a price in and hedge against future increases.

“By doing that, we’re able to place a price cap on a portion of our winter supply,” Tripp said.

Increased natural gas prices will also greatly impact Kansas farmers. Natural gas is the main ingredient in nitrogen fertilizers. When the price of gas goes up, so does the price of fertilizer.

“Fertilizer is the largest direct cost (for farmers),” said Mark Nelson with the Kansas Farm Bureau.

Higher fertilizer prices will mean thinner profit margins, he said.

Last year the price to put fertilizer on no-till corn was $60 an acre. Nelson said many people are preparing for that cost to double.

“That’s a lot of money just for that one cost input,” Nelson said.

Brian Grimmett reports on the environment, energy and natural resources for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow him on Twitter @briangrimmett or email him at grimmett (at) kmuw (dot) org. The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.
See more at https://www.kcur.org/news/2021-10-13/kansans-will-pay-more-for-natural-gas-this-winter.

EPA awards $469,924 in project funding in KC area

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that $469,924 will be awarded in funding for three sustainable materials management projects in the Kansas City area.

The announcement was made at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.

The Unified Government will receive $95,000 in funding to conduct a feasibility study for an organic material composting facility, including a site evaluate, feedstock and processing technologies evaluation, concept design and financial evaluation, according to the EPA.

The Mid-America Regional Council was selected for $174,924 in funding for a project to address food waste reduction in the nine-county Kansas City region through a Regional Food Waste Reduction Action Plan, food system mapping and an educational campaign.

Kansas State University Pollution Prevention Institute was selected for $200,000 in funding for a project in Johnson County that will work with industry and community partners to provide on-site technical assistance, identifying and documenting opportunities for food and solid-waste (packaging) source reduction, diversion and recycling.

“By working to reduce the waste going to landfills and stopping pollution at the source,” said acting EPA Region 7 Administrator Edward H. Chu, “these sustainable materials management projects will help the Kansas City area become an even stronger and more environmentally friendly community.”

“The UG remains committed to improving air quality and ensuring clean, safe water for Wyandotte County and the surrounding region,” said Mayor-CEO David Alvey, Unified Government. “An organic composting facility could help reduce unnecessary waste going into area landfills, decreasing emissions harmful to the environment, and turning waste into composted materials that can be used for land applications such as an alternative to chemical fertilizers. We appreciate the EPA’s grant assistance to study the feasibility of this project, and value this partnership to improve the quality of life for our community and the region through sustainable materials management.”

“This grant allows MARC to convene regional partners and stakeholders to address food waste in a holistic way through prevention, rescue and composting,” MARC Executive Director David Warm said. “These strategies will get more fresh food to those in need, reduce the financial burden to individual households, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce the region’s disposal needs.”

“This new funding will accelerate our solid waste reduction work with Kansas schools, industries and communities,” said Paul Lowe, associate vice president for research and director of PreAward Services at Kansas State University. “It will divert millions of tons of waste from the landfills in Kansas, helping the state and Johnson County meet their solid waste reduction goals while acting as a model for future industrial and community partners.”

Sustainable Materials Management is a systemic approach to using materials more productively and finding new opportunities to reduce environmental impacts, conserve resources, and reduce costs over a product’s life cycle. EPA’s SMM program supports efforts to help build community health by reducing the use, release and exposure to toxic chemicals; using life-cycle approaches to reduce the health and environmental impacts of materials use; and employing upstream solutions that reduce the need for and cost of environmental cleanup and pollution management.

Kansas gas utility won’t release invoices detailing winter prices, but some data is already available

Utilities purchased a combined $1 billion in excess natural gas charges during storm

by Allison Kite, Kansas Reflector

Kansas’ largest natural gas utility has resisted releasing records about what suppliers charged it during the historic cold snap in February that saw prices rise by more than 200 times. But according to a new filing, it has already disclosed much of that information.

In February, when temperatures in Kansas City plunged below 15 degrees for 10 days, natural gas prices went from a few dollars per MMBtu to $300 and $600 on some days. Kansas regulators are reviewing utilities’ plans to pass $1 billion in excess natural gas costs onto ratepayers, stretched over years.

Some large-scale customers have balked at the plans, pushing for more information about what suppliers charged Kansas utilities, particularly Kansas Gas Service, such high prices. But KGS has resisted those calls, saying its supplier invoices are confidential information.

But in a filing more than a month ago, KGS disclosed its suppliers and how much it paid each of them during the storm. A key piece of information missing is how much it paid per MMBtu, which would allow for comparison between companies.

“It seems to us to not be reasonable to say … 90% of what’s in the invoice is public, but 10% is not. That doesn’t seem to make logical sense to us,” said Jim Zakoura, an attorney representing the Natural Gas Transportation Customer Coalition, a group of large-scale business customers.

Zakoura filed with the Kansas Corporation Commission Wednesday asking commissioners to reconsider their earlier decision to deny his petition to release KGS’ invoices.

“It highlights the fact that in five days the market was so dysfunctional, in our opinion, that it caused a run-up of $1 billion,” Zakoura said.

Dawn Tripp, a spokeswoman for KGS, said documents the utility has filed with KCC are fully accessible to the agency’s staff, the attorney general’s office, Zakoura’s client and other consumer and business groups.

“Specific information about the pricing structure of the agreements we have with our natural gas suppliers and the prices paid are confidential,” she said.

Tripp said KGS has disputed charges with one supplier, Southwest Energy, reducing the cost of gas by $5.6 million. Another dispute, with MacQuarie Energy, is worth nearly $15 million and pending.

KGS is requesting to pass on more than $451 million in natural gas costs and carrying fees, the largest total of the Kansas utilities, and recover it from ratepayers over five, seven or 10 years. The change would increase the average customer’s bill anywhere from about $4 to $11 per month.

Kansas Reflector stories, www.kansasreflector.com, may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

See more at https://kansasreflector.com/2021/09/23/ks-gas-utility-wont-release-invoices-detailing-winter-storm-prices-but-some-data-is-already-available/.