“There’s no way to even afford that” Iowans get stuck with gas bills worth thousands from Texas freeze

Published: Mar. 23, 2021 at 9:11 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Keith Charlier’s utility bill for the month is sitting on his dining room table: it’s $1,596.25. Last month his bill was around $200.

Charlier’s story is all too familiar to people in Brighton. Gas bills are spiking in the community of fewer than 1,000 people in Washington County. Our KCRG-TV9 i9 Investigative Team saw bills increase by more than 700%.

The city utility blamed the cold snap in the south and midwest in February that set off an energy crisis centered in Texas.

Charlier said he can’t afford this bill and will likely use his new stimulus payment to pay the bill.

“That’s five-six months worth of heating we do and we have to somehow pay that,” Charlier said.

The city of Brighton sent a letter from Mayor Melvin Rich to customers along with the bill for the month of February. The letter, which is dated March 15, said the city council created a 12-month payment plan to ease the burden of this month’s bill.

Emails from the Brighton City Clerk show that the supplier the city uses warned the city about the increase in prices back on February 15. But, the city never formally told customers about gas prices until March 15 when bills were sent out.

Charlier said if he had an earlier notice, he would have used something else to heat his home for the month.

The city says it happened to smaller utilities across the state and asked for people to call their state officials to ask for assistance. A spokesperson for Alliant Energy said its customers will see a bill similar to previous years.

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