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Cold pushes Natural Gas up 1,700% for Tucson Government

Buses, city buildings affected
LNG Bus-retouch.jpg
Posted at 1:40 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 22:30:52-05

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Brutally cold weather in Texas has burned the City of Tucson when it comes to Natural Gas prices---with a 1,700% jump in what the city is paying to heat buildings and run vehicles.

The City Manager's Office says as a bulk user of natural gas, the city negotiated a contract that sets very favorable prices for natural gas but cold weather has led to shortages that made it impossible for that supplier to deliver the gas the City of Tucson needs.

Related: Southwest Gas asks customers to conserve

That led City Government to buy gas on the open market and led to the huge surge in price. A memo from City Manager Mike Ortega says the city’s Natural Gas cost has jumped from about $2400 per day to more than $41,000 per day.

City Manager Mike Ortega says that requires re-thinking any city service that depends on natural gas.

“Make sure that your trash gets picked up the buses are still run etc. but also making sure that our populations and some of our City Housing facilities are intact and not seeing a challenge there. “

City vehicles like Tucson’s garbage trucks and some of its Sun Tran buses run on natural gas because it’s cleaner, and usually cheaper.

The city has a collection of buildings heated with gas, and other facilities like park swimming pools.

Household natural gas consumers should not face a similar jump in price, according to a spokesperson for Southwest Gas.

To conserve, the city has urged employees to put on some sweaters as it cut heating temperatures in city buildings by five degrees in the daytime and ten degree at night. That does not apply to city-owned public housing where people in vulnerable populations may live. They are being asked to conserve voluntarily.

The city will have to tap into reserves to pay the jump in cost.

Ortega says, “So we do have a small amount that has been allocated for contingencies for exactly this. And so the key piece is just making sure we do what we can to reduce our costs, and then determine how long we can sustain that will be a function of what happens in the open market.”

Ortega says this price spike could pass in a few days or it could last longer.