Miami County town seeing impact from cold snap; Kansas agency investigate utility companies

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OSAWATOMIE, Kan. — There are new formal investigations into how Kansas power companies handled last month’s severe cold snap. The goal is to limit the hit to your wallet and prevent something like it from happening again.

The city of Osawatomie, Kansas, was nervous after seeing bills go 10 times higher in a week than the typical cost for a full month during February’s arctic blast. But now, new actions from the state should help soften the blow to our budgets.

“We paid about $700,000 for what would typically be 7-8 months of electricity, and we bought it in two weeks,” said Mike Scanlon, Osawatomie city manager.

Osawatomie estimated that would mean $230 more in next month’s power bill to residents. But thanks to a new state low-interest loan program, it’s hoping to spread out the price spikes, limiting damage to city, school district and family budgets. For homeowners, the change could ultimately be as low as $10 per month.

“What’s been nice in working with the state treasurer is he’s willing to allow us to borrow for a year up to 10 years, so it gives us some time to figure out how we want to borrow the money and then how to repay it with the rates we charge our customers,” Scanlon said.

But the Kansas Corporation Commission, which regulates the state’s utilities, is concerned about the big picture.

“The effects of what occurred during that week just like so many other things that’ve happened this year, are going to haunt us for a long time,” said Susan Duffy, KCC commissioner.

On Tuesday, the KCC board green-lighted seven utility company investigations, including Evergy and Atmos, which serve the Kansas City area.

“It’s been light speed to move forward these investigations that I really see as consumer protection investigations to evaluate actions of utilities during the weather event, to make sure these events don’t happen in the future and to make sure that our utilities are taking all possible steps to mitigate costs that might ultimately flow to their customers,” said Andrew French, Kansas Corporation Commission chair.

Evergy released the following statement regarding KCC’s investigation.

“The extreme and extended cold during the polar vortex event in February had an unprecedented impact on energy supply throughout the middle of the United States. Like other utilities in the region, Evergy faced increased costs and, at the direction of the Southwest Power Pool, interrupted service to customers in order to prevent larger, uncontrolled outages. Evergy supports the KCC’s effort to examine and understand the circumstances, cost drivers and actions taken. We share their goal to examine ways to prevent similar events in the future. “

FOX4 also reached out to Atmos Energy, but we have not received a response.

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