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Democratic senator calls for probe into natural gas price hikes during severe winter storms

February 21, 2021. Summarized by summa-bot.

Compression ratio: 67.4%. 2 min read.

FORT WORTH, TX - FEBRUARY 16: Pike Electric service trucks line up after a snow storm on February 16, 2021 in Fort Worth, Texas. Winter storm Uri has brought historic cold weather and power outages to Texas as storms have swept across 26 states with a mix of freezing temperatures and precipitation. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota sent a letter to regulators Saturday calling for an investigation into possible price gouging of natural gas in Texas and other areas affected by severe winter storms this month.

(CNN)Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota sent a letter to regulators Saturday calling for an investigation into possible price gouging of natural gas in Texas and other areas affected by severe winter storms this month.

"One such ripple effect has been in the natural gas markets, where natural gas spot prices have spiked, in some cases, to nearly 100 times typical levels. "

Smith specifically requested an investigation into the conditions in the natural gas market over the last week and asked that the acting secretary of the Department of Energy, David Huizenga, and other regulators invoke emergency measures such as the Natural Gas Policy Act, which would regulate natural gas production and transmission.

"These drastic price increases are forcing utilities and other natural gas users to incur exorbitant costs, much of which could be passed along to consumers in the form of higher electric or natural gas bills over the next year," she wrote.

Texas' utility regulator, Public Utility Commission of Texas, said Saturday it is investigating "the factors that combined with the devastating winter weather to disrupt the flow of power to millions of Texas homes. " Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called an emergency meeting to look into the situation, and Texas Rep. Michael McCaul told CNN's Dana Bash on "State of the Union" Sunday that federal emergency funds meant to help Texans recover will also be used to help some residents pay high energy bills.

Smith similarly asked regulators to examine financial support for families affected by the price hikes in Texas and beyond.

"Americans must come together to support each other during times of national crisis, and price gouging by natural gas suppliers is a violation of their moral -- and potentially legal -- obligations," she wrote.

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