Minnesota regulators voted Thursday not to reconsider their decision disallowing $55 million in costs that three gas utilities wanted to collect from customers in connection with a major winter storm last year.
CenterPoint Energy, Xcel Energy and Great Plains Natural Gas Co. were petitioning to recoup the full costs they incurred during the epic February 2021 winter storm in Texas that drove up wholesale gas prices in Minnesota and many other states.
The state's four investor-owned gas utilities took on $660 million in extra, storm-related costs and have been allowed to collect more than 90% of those costs from customers.
PUC commissioners voted Thursday to deny the petitions for reconsideration in a matter of minutes and with little discussion. Under state administrative rules, the PUC can make its decision without taking any comments.
Each company's petition was voted on separately. The denials all passed on 4-1 votes. Commissioner Valerie Means voted against each denial.
After a yearlong investigation, the PUC said in August that the utilities could have done more to curb costs. The utilities asked for a reconsideration last month even though it is rare for the agency to rescind decisions.
The PUC's previous vote disallowed $35.7 million of the $409 million CenterPoint Energy incurred during the storm, $19 million of Xcel Energy's $179 million in costs and $845,000 of $8.8 million for Great Plains.
In its petition for reconsideration, Xcel Energy said that it maintained reliable service for customers during the storm and questioned the PUC's disallowance calculations based on load forecasts for its system and its supply of reserve margins of gas.
Xcel is the only one of the utilities based in Minnesota. CenterPoint is headquartered in Houston. Great Plains is part of the Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., which ultimately is owned by Bismarck, N.D.-based MDU Resources Group Inc.
Minnesota Energy Resources Corp., a fourth utility, previously signed a settlement agreement that disallowed $3 million of its $65 million in extraordinary gas costs from the storm and was not seeking PUC reconsideration. MERC is owned by Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a letter opposing reconsideration for the three utilities. The city of Minneapolis, one of CenterPoint's large commercial customers, opposed reconsidering the decision in regard to that utility.
"The record reflects that CenterPoint Energy knew, or had reason to know, that daily spot gas would be significantly more expensive than their storage assets," wrote Kim Havey, director of the city's Division of Sustainability. "Failing to maximize their storage assets caused CenterPoint Energy incur millions in unnecessary costs."
The city has 16 accounts with CenterPoint that have "interruptible gas service." Havey said CenterPoint did not offer the city a chance to curtail service at any of its locations, which would have cut its costs.