Gas crisis discussed in Waterloo

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A gas committee meeting took place in Waterloo Thursday morning to discuss ways to tackle an exorbitant natural gas rate charged to the city for February.

Many communities in the Midwest saw prices soar as gas wells froze in mid-February and the demand for energy could not keep up.

Waterloo’s natural gas rate, with penalties and other fees, came out to $18.43 per dekatherm for February when it is normally $2.65 per dekatherm. 

Alderman Steve Notheisen, who heads the gas committee, explained that Waterloo’s gas bill is 60 percent administrative costs and 40 cost of gas.

During the 30-minute discussion, the committee voted to recommend the city council hire attorney Carl Fink of Blue Planet Energy Law for advice and the drafting of letters on behalf of Waterloo to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Synergy Energy or Mississippi River Transmission depending on what he determines is the best course of action.

Gas providers can file a petition for a waiver of the penalites incurred during February’s cold weather snap.

Synergy Engery is the city’s broker and MRT is the city’s pipeline company.

The committee also voted to recommend the council bill Waterloo residents what their bill would be if there were no force majeure (unforeseen circumstance) penalties or associated fees.

“I expect that without the penalties and the force majeure would be about 25 percent higher than last year,” Notheisen said. “If we were to bill with all of the exceptional items, the bills would be about 300 percent higher.”

Waterloo city attorney Daniel Hayes suggested using Fink in this matter, as he has helped the city on similar issues in the past.

“He doesn’t think we need to get involved in litigation,” Hayes told the committee. “In effect what’s happening is the gas line people are being penalized by the federal system because of the weather.”

The matter is expected to be placed on the April 5 council meeting agenda.

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