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Attorney general’s office to join KCC inquiry of natural gas price spike

By: - July 27, 2021 1:29 pm
The Kansas Corporation Commission agreed Tuesday to allow the state attorney general to interview in investigation of natural gas price spikes last winter. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

The Kansas Corporation Commission agreed Tuesday to allow the state attorney general to interview in investigation of natural gas price spikes last winter. (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas Corporation Commission agreed Tuesday to permit the state’s attorney general to intervene on behalf of consumers as regulators investigate the extraordinary spike in natural gas prices during February winter storms.

Andrew French, chairman of the regulatory board and an appointee of Gov. Laura Kelly, said the attorney general’s office would take part in inquiries of Kansas Gas Service, Black Hills Energy and Atmos Energy. The investigation centers on evaluation of costs incurred by those utilities and development of customer payment plans.

“While our jurisdictional responsibilities are distinct, the KCC and attorney general have a good track record of working together on behalf of Kansas customers,” French said.

The KCC previously ordered utilities operating in Kansas to continue serving customers and delay issuance of massive bills until the commission sorted through recommendations for recouping those costs.

In July, Attorney General Derek Schmidt petitioned to intervene in the KCC cases. Schmidt, a Republican candidate for governor, sought a role before the KCC by referencing his authority under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. The state law deals with holding suppliers accountable for deceptive business practices.

The KCC decision means the attorney general’s office would be able to participate in commission proceedings by questioning witnesses and filing testimony in addition to having access to all documents submitted in the cases.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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