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Sen. George Burns encourages Oklahomans to opt out of "automatic payments" for gas and electric bills for near future

State Sen. George Burns, R-Pollard, is encouraging all Oklahomans to pause their automatic gas and electric payments for the next few months and instead pay their bills manually as customers brace for higher-than-normal utility bills due to last week’s brutal winter storm.

Customers may see an increase in their normal bills due to higher fuel costs caused by high energy demand during the historically low temperatures in the February storm that left many Oklahomans without power. The Southwest Power Pool, the regional electric operator that runs the power grid for 14 states spanning across the Midwest, instituted rolling blackouts last week for many customers in order to conserve energy supply and grid stability. 

“Temperatures plunged to historic levels last week, and many Oklahomans turned up the heat to stay warm and prevent pipes from freezing, bursting and causing damage to homes,” Burns said. “Unfortunately, the energy usage caused an immense strain on our power grid, and energy prices spiked to high levels. State officials are warning that many Oklahomans may see electric and gas bills much higher than normal, so I’m encouraging everyone to turn off automatic payments and instead pay utility bills manually to ensure large sums of money, not normally budgeted for, are not automatically withdrawn.”

Those at the highest risk of drastic price increases include customers who get gas that’s not regulated by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. The governor’s office announced on Monday the executive branch is working with the Corporation Commission and rate-regulated utility companies to spread energy costs over long periods of time to mitigate the storm’s impact on monthly bills.

Rate regulated utility companies include Oklahoma Natural Gas, CenterPoint, Navitas, West Texas Gas, Panhandle Gas, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas, OG&E and PSO.

Oklahomans are also encouraged to report winter storm damage, including flooding from broken pipes; power surges that caused damage to furnaces, electric systems or appliances; injuries and displacement sustained from the storm; or number of days without water, gas or electricity to

“The bottom line is, we are unsure of exactly how this usage will impact monthly bills in the coming months, but the last thing we want is for a customer to have an automatic payment withdrawn that’s two or three times higher than normal, causing strain on immediate finances,” Burns said. “The safest thing to do is pause automatic payments and make utility payments manually until this issue is ironed out. If you’ve been impacted by the winter storm in any way, I’d also encourage you to report your damages online so we have a full understanding of the destruction of this storm.”