The “act of God” winter freeze in Texas had a direct impact on the cost that Homewood-Flossmoor High School paid for natural gas.
The district’s winter gas bill would normally be $30,000 but this year it was $280,000 due to a spike in the gas commodity prices when about a third of the natural gas supply in Texas was lost to the freeze, said Lawrence Cook, District 233 business manager, at the April 6 board meeting.
The February winter storm left thousands of people without power resulting in an estimated $195 billion in damages, making it the costliest natural disaster in the recorded history of Texas and the United States as a whole. Hurricanes Katrina and Harvey are estimated to have caused $125 billion each.
Cook said the district does plan ahead and purchases an average of 56% of its gas supply for the year in summer months. In summer 2020, the district paid 28 cents per therm of gas.
When it came time to buy more gas last winter, H-F felt the direct effects of the Texas storm. Cook said Vanguard, the district’s supplier, went onto the market to make a purchase only to find the price was as high as $13 a therm. Vanguard got H-F’s cost down to $5 a therm by buying natural gas from Canada.
While H-F’s bill is far above budget, Cook said he’s thankful Vanguard was able to purchase natural gas at the $5 rate.
“It was an anomaly that no one planned for and then we got hit with a big bill,” he said. “It was totally out of our control. What we could have done was purchase more gas – 70-80-90%, but that didn’t make a lot of sense because gas could have been cheaper and then if we don’t use it all and try to sell it back it’s at a loss, so that’s why we never go beyond 56%, but going forward we’re going to purchase more gas, just in case.”
Cook said to date there’s been no mention of state or federal financial assistance to help school districts cover the additional expense.