The Town of Lapel Gas Utility is one of 32 (thirty-two) small gas utilities in the State of Indiana. On February 13, 2021 the Town asked its residents to do their part to help conserve gas by reducing temperatures in their homes and businesses. This request was based on increased demand across the country due to a far-reaching polar vortex. This cold was devastating to much of the southern states, Including Texas. This cold caused power outages that not only disrupted millions of lives in Texas but also caused shutdowns at oil refineries and natural gas wells across the state.
Many gas utilities, including the Town of Lapel, work with suppliers to purchase gas in advance at a discounted rate. This rate averages somewhere in the $2-$3 per unit (Dekatherm) range. Once this pre purchased amount is used, then incremental purchases are made at the current market rate.
During this event natural gas pricing spiked as high as $1,100 per unit. This was the first time in history that an event like this has produced a spike of this magnitude in the price of natural gas. We and several other communities across the country feel the actions taken during this weather emergency by the gas suppliers equates to nothing less than price gouging during an emergency. We have shared this concern with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) and the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor (OUCC). In addition, we have been in contact with the State Attorney General’s office to investigate potential price gouging by the gas suppliers. Nationally this is being investigated by Congress and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
As a result of this predatory pricing the bill the town receives from the gas supplier for the month of February alone was nearly $500,000. This is nearly $200,000 more than was projected for all of 2021. The town is currently working with several different agencies to secure funding to cover this unexpected expense.
What does all this mean for the town of Lapel and its residents? Unfortunately, this means if you are a Lapel Gas Customer, you will see some uncomfortable numbers when you open your newest bill. We understand that many of our residents and businesses will not have the means to pay this bill on the due date. As a result, we will allow any resident or business the opportunity to arrange a payment plan for this month’s gas bill. This payment plan is for the Gas Portion of your bill ONLY. All other utilities will need to be paid on time as well as all future billings. Gas customers utilizing automatic withdrawal will need to contact town hall and set up a payment plan and manually make their payment. All gas customers will receive in the mail a copy of the information I have shared with you tonight along with specific information for of the steps necessary to make payment arrangements for your account.
Ultimately our goal is that the state and federal agencies, along with our legal team, will be successful and a settlement will be reached that allows us to issue refunds to all customers affected. While this is our goal, there is no guarantee that this will happen.
We have been working diligently to determine the best course of action for this situation. This decision was not made lightly. After consulting with several advisors, we chose what we feel is in the best interest of all residents. This plan allows you to have control over how you will pay your bill and adjust your personal budgets. Everyone’s financial situation is not the same and it would be wrong for us to make this choice for you.
Again, all gas customers must contact town hall to set up your payment plan. If you do not make arrangements for your account, then we do expect the balance due in full on he due date.
We welcome your comments. We expect them to be both good, and bad.
There are financial aid options available if you qualify. Please contact Town Hall for more details.
We would like to thank the following for all their assistance in this matter up to this point and going forward:
- Indiana Bond Bank
- Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission
- Office of Utility Consumer Counselor
- Indiana Attorney General’s Office
- Utility Gas Management
- Graham, Hopper, Farrer, and Wilson
- Taft Law Offices, Indianapolis
We want to thank all of you as well. Please work with us and together we can all get through this.
President, Lapel Town Council