As countless Texans continue to struggle as a result of last month’s historic winter storms and catastrophic power outages, the state’s top law enforcer is broadening his search for answers and is now investigating the monstrous spike of natural gas prices.
In a press release on Monday, Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he’s issued a civil investigative demand to Intercontinental Gas Exchange, “a natural gas exchange that saw massive price increases during the February winter storm that swept through Texas.”
“The [Consumer Protection] Division believes that Intercontinental Exchange, Inc. may be in possession, custody, or control of documentary material relevant to an investigation of possible violations of [the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act] with respect to possible price gouging in the natural gas industry in the State of Texas during the month of February 2021,” read the investigative demand.
Paxton is requiring them to hand over documents related to the February storm, such as any communications with business participants about the “rapidly escalating natural gas prices” during that time, and any communications with government officials about the price investigation. Reports say that during the arctic storm, natural gas prices in various parts of Texas and the country soared by thousands of percentages.
Paxton’s announcement comes after he issued investigative demands last month to several power companies and ERCOT, the state’s now highly derided power grid management agency. He required them to submit an array of documents related to emergency plans and efforts to winterize power grid equipment. Paxton also recently sued electrical retailer Griddy, claiming they misled customers about variable cost plans.
In the fallout of the storms and outages, politicians and government officials have been busy pointing fingers—some at ERCOT for their mishandling of the emergency situation, some at Republican state lawmakers for refusing for years to pass proposed electrical grid protections, and some at Gov. Greg Abbott for his role in spending billions of taxpayer dollars on unreliable green energy rather than strengthening the core electrical grid.
Meanwhile, Paxton’s investigations could be a step toward fixing a broader problem. Intercontinental Exchange must submit documents to the attorney general by March 12.
“As we learn more about what drove pricing spikes during the recent winter storm disaster, I am expanding the scope of my investigation to include the natural gas industry as well as electricity providers,” Paxton said on Monday. “These massive price increases impacted businesses and consumers alike and will have long-term effects on Texas. Hardworking Texans who pulled together to get their communities through this disaster deserve transparency and justice.”