Energy News Today

“It’s outrageous;” Residents demand action over high gas bills

WESTVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — People in Westville say they’re outraged after receiving abnormally high gas bills again after severe winter weather hit the Midwest in February.

The village’s natural gas provider says the village would be on the hook for $1.2 million dollars. Gas customers in Westville received letters explaining the high fees this month and are demanding action.

“We’ve had several calls today,” Mayor Mike Weese tells WCIA. “Some are getting irate with the girls in the office, which – I wish they wouldn’t do that. It’s not their fault.”

But whose fault is it? That’s the question customers and council members alike share. Weese says it’s not the village’s fault.

“This comes from Missouri and Texas, where the fields froze and the gas spiked,” Weese said.

Westville’s gas and water superintendent, Michael Bennett, says the Missouri Public Utility Assistance didn’t warn the village that the prices had shot up for several days back in February.

“Had we been notified sooner, we would have gotten it out to the public to turn their furnaces down, talked to the businesses and schools to set their furnaces down,” Bennett says. “It would have saved a lot of money.

Fast forward to May.

Sandy Lawlyes thought her bills were going back down; the latest was sitting $100 higher than normal.

Instead, she got a letter saying she now owes $779 more for the month of March.

“I didn’t realize that a part time user of gas was going to experience this kind of increase and then two months later coming back to say, “Oh we underbilled and now you owe this much more,’ it’s outrageous,” she said.

Weese says the village actually filed back in 2020 to break ties with the MPUA. The official split had then been set for five years from now. But after everything Westville has experienced, Weese says they want to speed up the process and leave in a year.

Officials with the gas commission say they’re looking at how much it would cost other cities in the co-operative to take on the burden of what Westville would have paid. If Westville leaves early, they might not be reimbursed for the massive 2021 bills in the long run. The commission is awaiting the results of a federal probe to learn if the prices were fairly set in February.

In the meantime, the village is urging people who might have trouble paying their bills to reach out to CAP for financial assistance at 217-554-9100. The letters also encourage people to call their state representatives to fight the gas charges.

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2021-05-04 18:17:40

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