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St Paul (KROC AM News) - Most Minnesotans likely had no idea they were being charged much higher natural gas prices last week while bitterly cold weather covered the state.

As a result, Minnesotans may be facing an unexpected higher natural gas bill.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission Tuesday opened a formal investigation into a recent huge spike in natural gas prices.

According to a press release issued after the meeting, " The Commission learned that some utilities had to buy gas at prices that were at least fifty times higher than average between February 12 and February 17."

That's when very cold weather was affecting much of the country. It also impacted energy companies in Texas.

The good news is that the unexpected cost is not expected to show up in the next bill customers receive.

According to the news release from the Minnesota Commerce Dept, “ At the hearing, regulated gas utilities, which serve the majority of Minnesotans, reported that unexpected gas costs in mid-February will not show up in customer bills immediately, but may be delayed by several months pending approval by the PUC.”

The department represents Minnesota ratepayers before the PUC on issues of energy resources and administers programs that provide financial assistance for heating and energy efficiency programs to Minnesotans.

PUC Chair Sieben said, “Our infrastructure provided warmth and electricity to Minnesotans throughout the severe weather event. We are just learning the economic fallout from this storm. As regulators, we will use every tool available to mitigate the impact to Minnesota utility customers. And, we will work cooperatively with state and federal partners to address the very real consequences this storm may have on utility customers’ pocketbooks. In the midst of this COVID pandemic, the last thing needed are additional bills hitting Minnesota families and businesses.”

Commerce Temporary Commissioner Grace Arnold said, “In this investigation, Commerce’s role is to protect Minnesota residents and businesses, and to provide assistance if utility bills are high. Our review of utilities’ natural gas purchases as part of this investigation will ensure utilities were prudent. Households struggling to pay utility bills now can apply for energy assistance and weatherization programs offered through the Department of Commerce.”

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