U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro proposes bill to prevent natural gas price gouging during emergencies

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In this image from video, Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas, speaks during the second impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump in the Senate at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. (Senate Television via AP)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Congressman Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives Wednesday that would limit natural gas trading during national emergencies.

Called the Gas Consumer Emergency Market Protection Act, the bill was proposed as a result of Winter Storm Uri in February, which caused more than $300 billion in damages in the state and knocked out power for millions of Texas residents. The natural gas market experienced unstable price fluctuations and left energy customers with massive bills.

“This bill will identify those who have unfairly profited from the Texas winter storm and put in place safeguards to prevent any future entity from price gouging Americans during an emergency,” Castro said in a statement. “Texans in need should not pay for the greed of oil and gas corporations trying to profit off of their misery.”

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, is a cosponsor of the bill.

“After struggling through a deadly winter storm without power, running water, or heat — thanks to the avoidable failures of the Abbott Administration — so many Texan families endured the additional insult of being blindsided with outrageous energy bills,” Doggett said in the press release.

If the bill is passed, it would require the natural gas markets to enforce trading ceilings during national and state declared emergencies and implement a federal fine for entities involved in price distortion during emergency events. The bill would also direct the CFTC to perform an inquiry on which entities benefitted from the price spike and report to Congress on how to address future emergencies.

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