Why natural gas prices may have increased this month for Arkansans
Arkansas – Some people might be tempted to turn up their house heating when cold weather approaches.
However, some Summit Utilities customers have been a little less likely to turn on the thermostat because their bills recently increased.
According to Lori Murillo, her Summit natural gas bill increased from roughly $60 to about $360 between the months of October and November.
“I get my paycheck from my job, and that’s where a quarter of its going to pay that gas bill. ” Murillo said.
She said that before the holidays, this has put her in a difficult situation.
“I have to work four times the amount to just pay this bill tomorrow… no Christmas gifts for the grandkids,” she added.
Later, Murillo complained to the Attorney General’s office about the price increase and claimed that she wasn’t the only one.
The office of Leslie Rutledge stated, in part, that they “received 48 consumer complaints about the billing practices of Summit Utilities. And tell any Arkansans who could have been hurt to get in touch with the office right away.”
According to Lizzy Reinholt, SVP, Corporate Affairs, Sustainability, and Marketing at Summit Utilities, they have no control over and make no money from the increase in gas prices of around 20 cents per unit.
“Prices are up whether it’s what you’re buying at the grocery store, whether it’s your energy costs. And the same is true when it comes to cost of gas” Reinholt said.
Reinholt said that cooler weather also accompanies this.
“[Customer’s] bills are up well, not only did their usage increase but also the cost of gas changed in November,” she said.
The new billing system that Summit implemented after purchasing another electricity company coincided with all of this.
“As part of that settlement, we actually put forward a credit to our customers on bills. So while the cost of gas is going up, we’ve actually been paying a cost credit to our customer bills,” Reinholt explained.
With that deal, “Summit gave all Arkansas customers a rate credit on their bill; these credits will total $26 million over two years across all Summit customers in Arkansas,” the company said in a statement.
Customers like Lori stated that they felt unprepared despite these facts.
“If they would learn to communicate with their customers we wouldn’t have these issues right now,” Murillo said.
There are a few things you may do, according to Summit, to prevent further surprises.
“Average monthly billing that allows customers to stabilize their bills throughout the year. So rather than seeing spikes in November, December January instead they can pay more of a consistent amount throughout the entire 12-month period,” Reinholt added.
Summit also said customers can turn on a ceiling fan to bring the hot air back down, and turn the thermostat a little lower if they can.
Summit explained they also have a heating assistance fund that can give customers $200 towards paying past due bills.