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Sticker Shock: Natural gas bill jumps hundreds of dollars for Whiteside County woman

Marsha Dail said her natural gas bill from Jo-Carroll Energy for the month of February was nearly $500. She usually pays between $70 and $100.

ERIE, Ill. — On a sunny day like Saturday, a natural gas bill might be one of the last things on your mind.

"This has never happened before," said Marsha Dail.

But, Dail is still grappling with her most recent bill from Jo-Carroll Energy.

"And it went from $71.82 to $496.22," Dail said. "Now, I thought that was a little steep."

Dail said she usually pays between $70 and $100 each month for natural gas. So, she called Jo-Carroll Energy to find out what happened.

Dail said a representative with Jo-Carroll Energy said it was because pipes froze in Texas. The representative also told Dail the company had to buy natural gas from other companies to meet demand.

Dail received a letter in the mail a few weeks ago from Jo-Carroll Energy, letting her know her bill would be larger.

"But we didn't know much higher it was gonna be," Dail said.

After more than a decade of living in Erie, Dail said this had never happened before. Dail said she had used Jo-Carroll Energy for natural gas services since she moved there in 2007.

It didn't just happen here in Erie. Marsha's sister-in-law, Cathy Suter, who lives in Fulton, said her bill doubled for the month of February. She said living there for 13 years, she too has never seen anything quite like this.

Jo-Carroll Energy spokesperson Peggy Francomb said subzero temperatures that reached into the southern states "caused problems at natural gas well-heads and facilities along the supply chain."  Francomb said this caused a reduced supply to the two pipeline companies that supply wholesale natural gas to Jo-Carroll. 

"The decreased production, coupled with high demand due to the exceptionally cold weather caused the market price for natural gas to skyrocket," said Francomb. 

In a phone call on Saturday, Suter said she got the same letter Dail received, and also said that letter did not indicate how much her gas bill would increase. 

"They thought it would be better for us to get it all at once so we would know the next bill would be back to normal," Dail said.

Dail said Jo-Carroll Energy is offering a payment plan for customers who can't pay all at once. Dail said the representative she spoke to said anyone who wants to take advantage of that plan should contact Jo-Carroll Energy directly.

"It's not really fair we have to pay for it. But, somebody has to," Dail said.

Dail and others are paying the price, for something that was out of their control.

Dail and Suter both said they feel stuck, since Jo-Carroll Energy is among their only options in their area.

Francomb said Jo-Carroll worked with the American Public Gas Association to request an investigation into the rise in natural gas prices.  This investigation request was sent to the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. 

They have also requested the President issue an Emergency Disaster Declaration to help impacted regions across the country.

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