Attorney General Derek Schmidt of Kansas has a financial stake in the selling of natural gas, prompting calls for him to reveal more details about his earnings while he probes gas firms for possible price gouging during February’s severe freeze. Schmidt, the state’s top law enforcement official, is investigating whether corporations boosted natural gas prices in violation of consumer protection legislation, which soared by as much as 200 times nearly overnight in February, and will consider whether to pursue lawsuit. Schmidt, a Republican seeking to oust Democratic Gov.
Laura Kelly, could be earning thousands of dollars a year from his own natural gas well in southeast Kansas. Kelly declared a state of emergency in February, when temperatures dropped below freezing for days on end, triggering Kansas‘ anti-profiteering legislation, which prohibits firms from boosting prices on essential products by more than 25%. Attorneys general in neighbouring states, which were also struck hard by the cold, were quick to identify growing natural gas prices as potential price gouging and initiate investigations.
Rising natural gas costs are expected to cost Kansas consumers more than $1 billion over the next few years. After Kelly sent him a letter in March, Schmidt told the City Star that he was already looking into the situation. Schmidt claimed the high charges “appear to contravene law” in a news release issued in September, seven months after the storm and as utilities were debating plans to pass higher rates on to customers.
Schmidt should declare his “possible financial conflicts of interest and recuse himself from this investigation,” according to Emma O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Democratic Party. Schmidt’s ownership in the well appeared to present a potential conflict of interest, according to political science professors Patrick Miller and Don Heider-Markel at the University of.