The allegations of “price gouging” against natural gas suppliers in Kansas has turned into an open records battle.
The Kansas Corporation Commission has denied the request of an attorney who wanted to know how much suppliers were paid during the 2021 Winter Storm Uri, the same storm that paralyzed Texas, resulted in rolling blackouts in Oklahoma and led to billions of dollars in extended customer rate hikes.
While Kansas energy customers are footing the hundreds for hundreds of millons of dollars in the extraordinary natural gas costs, the KCC said the public does not need the documents in order to continue with any litigation over the claims of market manipulation.
The Commission ruled the release of such invoices to the public “would cause harm to both Black Hills and the public” and might affect the company’s “ability to compete for low cost gas supplies in the future,” reported the Topeka Capital-Journal.
The attorney who sought the invoices is Jim Zakura, who specializes in energy law at Foulston Siefkin, a Kansas City law firm. He filed two federal class action lawsuits against energy companies, including the Kansas Gas Service, a division of Oklahoma based ONE Gas. The suits accused Kansas Gas Service and the Kansas Municipal Gas Agency of violating the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.
In the wake of the denial of his public documents request for invoices of Black Hills Energy , Zakoura asked the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board to intervene.
Zakoura has asked the commissioners to reconsider, and the Citizens’ Utility Ratepayer Board has intervened.
“The public ‘right to know’ goes to the very heart of the public policy benefit inherent in KORA,” said David Nickel, a CURB attorney. KORA is the Kansas Open Records Act.
“The primary focus of this docket is whether Kansas citizens, including residential and small commercial ratepayers, have the right to know the details surrounding why their natural gas utility bills are as high as they are,”added Nickel.
The same “price gouging” allegations have been made in Oklahoma where Attorney General Gentner Drummond announced intentions several months ago to pursue legal action over millions of dollars in high natural gas costs during the storm.
Oklahoma Corporation Commissioner Bob Anthony has made the same kind of claims regarding how much Oklahoma utilities benefitted from the market manipulation.